March election after  Northern Ireland  Government Collapses

March election after Northern Ireland Government Collapses

March election after Northern Ireland Government Collapses. An early election is due to be held in Northern Ireland on 2 March after the collapse of the government, it has been announced.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the Northern Ireland Assembly will sit for the last time on 25 January, before it is dissolved the following day.

The break-up of the power-sharing government comes amid a dispute between Sinn Fein and the DUP over a botched renewable energy scheme that could have cost the taxpayer £400m.

The “cash for ash” scandal prompted the resignation of deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, who called for DUP first minister Arlene Foster to quit.

She refused, calling Mr McGuinness’ actions “not principled” and “purely political”.

On Monday afternoon, Sinn Fein announced it would not replace Mr McGuinness – triggering the snap election.

Despite a last-ditch attempt by Theresa May to urge a resolution, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said his party had decided to “call time on the arrogance of the DUP”.

He said: “We have had scandal after scandal, allegations of corruption need to be investigated properly and the people responsible need to be held to account.”

Ms Foster said Sinn Fein had “chosen to pursue political self-interest” and “did not like the election result last May and are therefore looking to have another go”.

Announcing the dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Brokenshire urged both parties “to conduct this election with a view to…re-establishing a partnership government at the earliest opportunity after that poll.”

He said: “This is essential for the operation of devolved government. And this means that all must remain open to dialogue.”

Sinn Fein and the DUP are expected to remain the two largest parties following the election, meaning they will still have to hammer out a power-sharing arrangement.

If they fail to agree terms after three weeks, Mrs May could be forced to suspend devolution and reinstate direct rule from Westminster.

Sky News Ireland Correspondent David Blevins said the relationship between Sinn Fein and the DUP had been “slowly breaking down for a period of months”.

He said: “Some would suggest that the British and Irish governments took their eye off the ball.

“The botched renewable energy scheme is being blamed for the collapse of the devolved government but it was just the tip of the iceberg.”

He added that the collapse of the power-sharing government was the “greatest challenge to face the Northern Ireland peace process in a decade”.

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