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Published On: Thu, Jan 12th, 2017

Northern Ireland May Face Elections After McGuinness Resigned in Protest

 nsnbc : A meeting in Belfast between Northern Ireland’s political parties, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Northern Secretary James Brokenshire will be held on Thursday in an effort to avoid Stormont Assembly elections after the resignation of Martin McGuinness will be held on Thursday.

Adams_McGuinness_Belfast_Northern Ireland_UK_Jan 2017The prevailing sentiment, however, is that last ditch efforts to avoid elections after the resignation of McGuinness have little chance of success. On Wednesday Taoiseach Enda Kenny met Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Dublin and spoke to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster and former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness by telephone. McGuinness resigned from his position on Monday in protest at Foster’s refusal to step aside temporarily while an inquiry took place into the “cash for ash” renewable heat incentive scheme.

The row between Sinn Fein and DUP erupted over a controversial heating scheme which has overspent, with people in Northern Ireland facing having to pick up the cost estimated to be around 500 million pounds (611 million U.S. dollars). The row evolved into a breakdown in the volatile trust between the two political parties.

On Wednesday UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her counterpart in Dublin, Northern Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, discussed working together to find a solution to a potential crisis in Northern Ireland, reported Downing Street said Wednesday.

The resignation of McGuinness means that unless Sinn Fein put forward a replacement within seven days, an election will be called to choose a new assembly for Northern Ireland. This development prompted fears that there should be a temporary return to so-called home rule over Northern Ireland from Westminster.

In other words, Northern Ireland being directly governed via London again as Northern Ireland would effectively be without a functioning government. Under the terms of agreements in the so-called “region”, McGuinness’s departure meant Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) automatically ceased to be first minister at Stormont.

Sinn Fein, Wednesday night in Belfast, said they will not enter into negotiations with the DUP. Sinn Fein and the DUP have more than just a “troubled” past and old enmities from “the troubles” and the potential for a return to hostilities between Irish nationalists and loyalists continue to boil underneath the surface. At crisis talks at Stormont which aimed at saving Northern Ireland’s devolved institutions, Sinn Fein told Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, to call an election.

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement that May and the Taoiseach both recognized the difficulties and seriousness of the situation in Northern Ireland. They also stressed how important it was to cooperate with the Irish government and the parties of Northern Ireland, to find a solution. The two leaders also spoke about how Brokenshire and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, will be working very closely together over the next few days and months to support the parties of Northern Ireland in finding a resolution.

Downing Street issued a statement on behalf of UK Prime Minister Theresa May saying: “The Prime Minister also said how important it was to make sure that Northern Ireland’s voice and interests are heard as we prepare to leave the European Union and how the Northern Ireland secretary is fully committed to making this happen.” The statement added that it was still Britain’s intention to hold a joint ministerial committee at the end of the month to bring the devolved regions together in getting the best deal for the whole of Britain.

The two Prime Ministers also agreed to maintain regular contact over the comings months. In the House of Commons in London on Wednesday, May told British MPs that she wanted to try to ensure that within the seven-day period before an election has to be called, a resolution to the political situation in Northern Ireland can be found so the assembly can continue to govern. “We are treating this with the utmost seriousness, we are putting every effort into this,” she said. However, chances to find a solution and to avoid elections are slim.

F/AK – nsnbc 12.01.2017

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