Vot­ers ‘now want to stay’

DUP chief ad­mits party has ‘hurt vot­ers’ over en­ergy scheme

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - BY MICHAEL McHUGH ir­[email protected]

Gove and Am­ber Rudd have switched away from Leave. the fig­ures show 422 of 623 UK con­stituen­cies now want to stay in the EU. And 324 of 533 in Eng­land back Re­main along with all Scot­tish seats and al­most all of Wales.

Al­to­gether, 193 con­stituen­cies have changed their mind since the 2016 ref­er­en­dum, ac­cord­ing to the poll. Cam­paign­ers say it makes Theresa May’s job of sell­ing her Brexit deal to the British peo­ple even more dif­fi­cult.

Best for Bri­tain chief Eloise Todd said: “The coun­try is shift­ing in one di­rec­tion. The PM is try­ing to stron­garm MPs into backing the slim pick­ings of her deal. Our re­search shows peo­ple across the na­tion have de­cided we are bet­ter off with what we cur­rently have.”

Polling ex­perts say the change is be­ing driven by young Labour vot­ers. In 2016 51 per cent were for Re­main. That’s now 71 per cent.

Labour women have changed po­si­tion too – with 68 per cent pre­pared to vote to stay com­pared to 49 per cent pre­vi­ously. The re­search, car­ried out by

Pop­u­lous, was com­mis­sioned by pro-EU Best For Bri­tain and HOPE Not Hate. More than 8,000 peo­ple were polled. HOPE not hate chief Nick Lowles, said: “The re­al­ity of Brexit is be­com­ing clear. MPs must do what’s best for their con­stituents.”

AR­LENE Foster has said she is “deeply, deeply sorry” for the DUP’s han­dling of a botched green en­ergy scheme.

She con­ceded the Re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive pub­lic in­quiry, which has taken de­tailed and frank ev­i­dence about the Stor­mont ini­tia­tive that ended up mas­sively over-bud­get, has been “painful”.

The party leader re­it­er­ated her apol­ogy and added she makes “no ex­cuses for the mis­takes we made dur­ing that pe­riod”.

She told her an­nual party con­fer­ence in Belfast yes­ter­day: “Some of our past de­ci­sions and ac­tions have left a lot to be de­sired and I know they have per­son­ally hurt and of­fended many of our mem­bers, vot­ers and the pub­lic.”

A pub­lic in­quiry led by re­tired judge Sir Patrick Cogh­lin has ex­posed many of the fail­ings at the heart of the scheme.

It was de­signed to en­cour­age busi­nesses to shift from fos­sil fu­els to re­new­able sources like wood but ended up pay­ing out more than it cost to fuel the burn­ers – earn­ing it the moniker Cash For Ash.

The re­sult was an an­tic­i­pated mas­sive over­spend, fall­ing to the North­ern Ir­ish tax­payer to pick up.

PROTEST

Sinn Fein’s late Stor­mont Deputy First Min­is­ter Martin McGuin­ness re­signed in protest at the DUP’s han­dling of the RHI and Stor­mont pow­er­shar­ing col­lapsed last year.

Rounds of ne­go­ti­a­tions have failed to res­ur­rect the in­sti­tu­tions.

Mrs Foster’s ex-spe­cial ad­vi­sor Dr An­drew Craw­ford had sev­eral close rel­a­tives with RHI boil­ers and his ac­tions have faced scrutiny.

A se­nior civil ser­vant has claimed po­ten­tial ap­pli­cants were warned to get their RHI ap­pli­ca­tions in quickly be­fore the scheme closed to new ap­pli­cants.

At the con­fer­ence at­tended by Tory Boris John­son, Mrs Foster said: “The in­quiry has been dif­fi­cult for many in­di­vid­u­ally and painful for the party col­lec­tively.

“No party would want to have all of its deal­ings ex­posed for all to see at a pub­lic in­quiry, es­pe­cially in the unique sys­tem of govern­ment we have, with the strug­gles and strains re­quired to make it work.

“But I make no ex­cuses. To­day, as leader of the party, I apol­o­gise.

“As a party we are deeply, deeply sorry for the mis­takes we made and for the things we got wrong dur­ing that pe­riod. I am de­ter­mined our party will learn the lessons from RHI and how govern­ment busi­ness was con­ducted at Stor­mont more gen­er­ally.”

She added there should be a “fun­da­men­tal ap­praisal” of the civil ser­vice, with greater ex­per­tise needed, proper records kept and greater trans­parency dis­played.

The in­quiry has been dif­fi­cult for many and painful for the party AR­LENE FOSTER

BELFAST YES­TER­DAY

STAY Rees-Mogg vot­ers

PAINFUL TRUTH DUP leader Ar­lene Foster at con­fer­ence in Belfast yes­ter­day GATH­ER­ING Sir Jef­frey Don­ald­son in Belfast’s Crowne Plaza Ho­tel SUP­PORT Nigel Dodds & Ian McCrea yes­ter­day AL­LIES Boris John­son flies in to sup­port Ar­lene Foster

AP­PLAUSE Mrs Foster

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