The finely balancing Northern Irish political system was tipped into chaos this week as the result of an energy scandal.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness tendered his resignation on Monday afternoon as deputy first minister of Stormont due to an ongoing row over the renewable heat incentive (RHI) in Northern Ireland revolving around first minister, Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The controversy revolves around the so-called cash-for-ash scandal which is estimated to cost Northern Irish taxpayers around £490 million.

The RHI offered financial incentives to farms, businesses and other non-domestic customers to use biomass boilers. However, it has been alleged that these incentives have been massively inflated, with one whistleblower stating a farmer has made £1 million out of heating an empty barn with one boiler.

Foster survived a vote of no confidence in December, but McGuinness’ resignation could force an election if the DUP first minister does not temporarily stand down to allow an independent investigation. If this does not happen, and another compromise is not reached, the Belfast executive will fall and an election campaign will begin.

Energy will be at the centre of it, especially as it is central to the imminent collapse of the previous parliament.

The Westminster and Scottish government’s will be watching closely as ripples could impact public opinion, and the wider view of energy policy, and in particular, subsidies for renewables.

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