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Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan believes Northern Ireland has 'no choice but to call election'

Sinn Fein delegation, led by Martin McGuinness, position remains same as they call for election

Published 12/01/2017

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister pictured at Stormont in Belfast as efforts to find a solution to the political impasse intensify. Charlie Flanagan was holding talks with the Secretary of State James Brokenshire.
Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker Press Belfast 12-01-2017
The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister pictured at Stormont in Belfast as efforts to find a solution to the political impasse intensify. Charlie Flanagan was holding talks with the Secretary of State James Brokenshire. Picture By: Arthur Allison. Pacemaker Press Belfast 12-01-2017
Sinn Fein hold a press conference in the Great Hall at Stormont the crisis. Pictured Right-Left Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Kelly. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker Press Belfast 12-01-2017
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire makes a statement to the media at Stormont House in Belfast, where he said that an election for Stormont's power-sharing institutions is still highly likely.Niall Carson/PA Wire

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire will be faced with "no choice" but to call an election on Monday, the Irish Foreign Minister has said during crisis talks at Stormont.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire is convening crisis talks at Stormont with Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan to save the devolved institutions from collapse following the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister.

On Monday the Assembly will meet to nominate to the position of First and deputy First Minister. Sinn Fein have repeatedly said they will not nominate therefore forcing Mr Brokenshire to call an election.

Mr McGuinness led the Sinn Fein delegation during Thursday's talks, the party said.

After the meeting Mr Flanagan said he believed by Monday the Secretary of State would be left with "no choice but to call an election".

And that if any such election was called there would be a "difficult challenge" in putting together the institutions after the result.

Earlier James Brokenshire described the DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan's decision to reinstate funding for an Irish language programme as "helpful", but repeated that an election was still on the cards.

A bitter row erupted between Sinn Fein and the DUP over the communities minister's decision to cut the £50,000 just two days before Christmas.

Mr Brokenshire described the U-turn as "helpful" but said an Assembly election was a "high probability".

"The reality remains, the high probability remains, that we are heading towards an election.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with her party colleagues, holds a press conference at DUP headquarters in east Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with her party colleagues, holds a press conference at DUP headquarters in east Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with her party colleagues, holds a press conference at DUP headquarters on Belmont Avenue in east Belfast. The RHI Scandal continues at Stormont with Martin McGuinness standing down as Deputy First Minister yesterday meaning the Assembly might have to face another election. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 10th January 2017 DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with her party colleagues, holds a press conference at DUP headquarters on Belmont Avenue in east Belfast. The RHI Scandal continues at Stormont with Martin McGuinness standing down as Deputy First Minister yesterday meaning the Assembly might have to face another election. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with her party colleagues, holds a press conference at DUP headquarters. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP Leader Arlene Foster arrives at DUP head quarters in East Belfast on Tuesday , The day after Martin McGuinness resigned as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister in protest against the handling of a botched energy scheme that could cost taxpayers £490m. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at DUP headquarters on Belmont Avenue in east Belfast. The RHI Scandal continues at Stormont with Martin McGuinness standing down as Deputy First Minister yesterday meaning the Assembly might have to face another election. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at DUP headquarters on Belmont Avenue in east Belfast. The RHI Scandal continues at Stormont with Martin McGuinness standing down as Deputy First Minister yesterday meaning the Assembly might have to face another election. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at DUP headquarters on Belmont Avenue in east Belfast. The RHI Scandal continues at Stormont with Martin McGuinness standing down as Deputy First Minister yesterday meaning the Assembly might have to face another election. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
DUP Leader Arlene Foster arrives at DUP head quarters in East Belfast on Tuesday , The day after Martin McGuinness resigned as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister in protest against the handling of a botched energy scheme that could cost taxpayers £490m. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

"The focus is on encouraging the political parties to work together, to talk with each other, but it is that task that we have ahead of us in the coming hours, in the coming days, the likelihood is that we are heading towards that election and the clock is certainly ticking down towards the start of next week when an election would become inevitable if there is no change from the current situation."

Mr Brokenshire again stated that he felt an election would be "divisive".

Read more:

Liofa: DUP Irish language U-turn 'olive branch' rejected by Sinn Fein - countdown to election continues  

Stormont crisis: Sinn Fein rule out negotiations as Secretary of State says 'high likelihood' of Northern Ireland election

Following talks with the Irish government Sinn Fein reiterated their position from earlier in their week where they told the Secretary of State to call the election.

MLA Michelle O'Neill said it should be "over to the public now" and that the DUP U-turn over Liofa was "too little too late".

She said: "There can be no return to the status quo and no short-term sticking plaster. There needs to be equality, partnership, and respect and both governments need to honour their responsibilities in full.

“We again said that we do not yet see any basis for a credible negotiation this side of an election.

“The position is clear. Following the resignation of the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness we must move to an election.

“Sinn Fein will, as always be open to dialogue, however talks for the sake of talks will not resolve the outstanding issues."

Following Mr McGuinness' resignation on Monday Mr Brokenshire said it was "entirely unhelpful and premature" to talk about the suspension of the devolved institutions.

On Tuesday Mrs Foster called for an investigation into the RHI to be set up under the 2005 Inquiries Act. That would mean a public inquiry which would compel witnesses to attend and documents to be produced.

After seven days with no renomination for the position, Mr Brokenshire has a “reasonable” period of time to call the election.

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