Enda Kenny and Theresa May 'rule out return to direct rule in N Ireland'
Irish premier Enda Kenny has said he and Prime Minister Theresa May are in agreement that there will be no return to direct rule in Northern Ireland.
Addressing a business event in New York, Mr Kenny urged the parties at Stormont to focus on forming a new powersharing executive.
Following a snap election at the start of the month, politicians next week will enter a third and final week of negotiations to strike a deal before a statutory deadline.
If the deadline passes without an accord to bring together a new powersharing executive involving the two main parties - Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionists - the UK government is legally obliged to call another election.
Some have predicted that, in those circumstances, the UK government might move to pass emergency legislation to reintroduce Westminster direct rule in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kenny's remarks at Bloomberg's offices in New York suggested that Mrs May has ruled that option out.
"I hope that the elected members of the Assembly will now focus through their parties on actually putting an executive in place within the three weeks from the date of the election," he said.
"If that doesn't happen the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (James Brokenshire) would then either have to hold further elections or have direct rule again from Britain.
"I have spoken very clearly to the British Prime Minister and we are both agreed that there will be no return to direct rule from London.
"So I do hope that the executive can be put in place, because this has implications for the peace process."
The last powersharing administatrion in Belfast collapsed amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Fein over a botched renewable energy scheme. The subsequent election campaign exposed further bitter disputes between the parties.