Belfast Telegraph

Charlie Flanagan calls for responsible actions if Assembly election is called

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan has called for responsible actions and words as Northern Ireland faces another election.

The minister spoke with Martin McGuinness and Secretary of State James Brokenshire in the wake of the senior Sinn Fein figure's resignation over the cash-for-ash scandal.

Mr Flanagan said he regretted the circumstances that led to Mr McGuinness stepping down as Deputy First Minister.

"If, as appears likely, new elections to the Assembly will now be required, it behoves all parties to act responsibly in word and deed, so that the political institutions of the Agreement will not be damaged in the longer term," he said.

"As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government will continue to work with the British Government and the political parties to advance political stability, reconciliation and economic prosperity in Northern Ireland."

The resignation could spark a second Stormont election in just eight months.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the stage has been set for a bitter battle for votes that will not address any of the issues that led to the crisis in Northern Ireland politics.

"Our fear is that party political interests have now overtaken the public interest," Mr Martin said.

The opposition leader in Dublin described First Minister Arlene Foster's actions over the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) as infuriating.

"Rather than acknowledge the genuine concern of the general public, an attempt was made to reheat the discredited language of the conflict and assume the worst of motives on behalf of anyone who sought accountability," he said.

But Mr Martin said that Sinn Fein's response will do nothing to deal with the estimated £490 million blackhole the scheme has left in Stormont finances and accused politicians of letting down the public when they most need representation.

He said: "It is a source of very serious concern that at a key moment, just as the British Government prepares to trigger Article 50 and start negotiations on the UK's exit from the European Union, the region that stands to lose most and requires the greatest level of focus to protect its position, is without a government, is facing a bitter election campaign, and is mired in recriminations and distrust."

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