THE decision by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness to walk away after 10 years sharing power with the DUP came as the now outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster refused to stand aside to facilitate a probe into the ill-fated Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the so-called ‘cash for ash’ furore.
Before Mr. McGuinness tendered his resignation on Monday Mrs. Foster told The Impartial Reporter that Sinn Fein’s demand was “ludicrous.”
“What I say to [Mr. McGuinness] is this: if he is playing a game of chicken, if Sinn Fein is playing a game of chicken and they think we are going to blink in relation to me stepping aside they are wrong. I won’t be stepping aside.” 
Then came the shock announcement by Mr. McGuinness hours later: “We in Sinn Fein will not tolerate the arrogance of Arlene Foster and the DUP,” he said. “Therefore, it is with deep regret and reluctance, that I am tendering my resignation as deputy first minister.”
Mrs. Foster oversaw the doomed scheme during her time as economy minister and rejected Sinn Fein’s demands to step down temporarily pending the outcome of a preliminary investigation.
In an interview with The Impartial Reporter before Mr. McGuinness’ announcement Mrs. Foster was asked if she is now damaged goods as suggested last week by DUP biographer John Tonge.
“Well, you should ask him what he means by that because I am not damaged goods,” she replied.
“One wonders what these people will all say when I am cleared after the independent inquiry. Will I be listening to a long list of apologies and recriminations when I am completely cleared? Because I will be and of that I have no doubt.”
Asked to respond to the charge that she possesses “overarching arrogance” Mrs. Foster said: “These are the sort of things that are fired at you when you are a strong leader, particularly when you are a strong female leader. If you have strong male leaders they are strong, they are hard, they are tough. If you have a strong female leader they are arrogant.”
Asked to explain to the public how she proposed to save taxpayers from a multi-million bill, Mrs. Foster said: “We get a certain amount of money from Westminster to run the renewable heat scheme. When I was in the department [of Enterprise] there was an underspend on that, we were handing money back to Westminster because we weren’t using it. After I left the department officials went to the then Minister Jonathan Bell to say ‘there’s a difficulty here, we are going to overspend on the money we get from Westminster’ and that’s when the impact to the Northern Ireland budget was coming into the fore. So the proposals that Simon Hamilton [the Economy Minister] has been looking at will bring that back down to just the Westminster money, so it will not cost the taxpayer any money in terms of the block grant.”
“Some people say we have lost £490 million. Well, we haven’t lost £490 million because that is the projected spend over 20 years into the future.”
Before Stormont came falling down, Mrs. Foster was optimistic about a resolution: “Simon has been working with officials to bring forward these proposals and we are hoping he will bring forward an Executive paper on the matter next week.” 
Her critics say a cloud of suspicion hangs over the DUP in relation to the RHI scheme, a cloud that may not lift until all the names of its recipients are released by the Department for Economy. 
“The names will show that there are people who applied for the scheme right across the political spectrum. There will be Ulster Unionists, there will be people who support the SDLP, no doubt about it,” said Mrs. Foster. “I haven’t seen the names, for clarity.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy has written to all recipients seeking permission to release their details. 
“Once somebody applies for someone they have the right to have their data protected and that’s why we have to go through this process. He will then apply a public interest test to see if he should release the names or not.”
Mrs. Foster also confirmed that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is now investigating sinister threats sent to her on social media, including “one that wanted me beheaded.”