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Stormont crisis: Northern Ireland heads for fresh Assembly election just 10 months after last poll

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has called fresh Assembly elections, which will take place on Thursday March 2.

It comes after Sinn Fein collapsed the power-sharing institutions when they refused to nominate a deputy First Minister to replace Martin McGuinness, who resigned last Monday over the DUP's handling of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal.

Sinn Fein said they would not "tolerate the arrogance and disrespect of the DUP".

Elections must be called if the positions at the top of the power-sharing executive remain vacant for seven days. The Assembly had until 5pm to come up with a solution to the impasse.

“I am now obliged, under relevant legislation, to propose a date for the next Northern Ireland Assembly election,” Mr Brokenshire said on Monday evening.

The last sitting day of the Assembly will take place on January 25 and the Assembly will be dissolved on January 26.

Mr Brokenshire urged political parties to “remain open to dialogue”.

"No-one should underestimate the challenge faced to the political institutions here in Northern Ireland and what is at stake,” Mr Brokenshire said.

“While it is inevitable that debate during an election period will be intense I would strongly encourage the political parties to conduct this election with a view to the future of Northern Ireland and re-establishing partnership government at the earliest opportunity after that poll."

"This is essential to the operation of devolved government and this means all must remain open to dialogue.

"The Government continues to stand firmly behind its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its successes and our responsibilities to safeguard political stability here in Northern Ireland.

"We will continue to do all that we can to find a way forward to secure the continuation of devolved government."

Mr Brokenshire said he would make a further statement in Parliament on Tuesday.

Earlier, DUP leader Arlene Foster, who accepted her party's nomination as first minister, said the electorate did not want or need an election.

She accused Sinn Fein of triggering a poll because they did not like the outcome of last May's vote.

"They have forced an election that risks Northern Ireland's future and stability and which suits nobody but themselves," she said.

Mr McGuinness's move was precipitated by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal - a botched eco-scheme set to cost Stormont £490 million - but the row has also reignited a range of other disputes dividing the DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition.

Former Deputy Northern Ireland First Minister Martin McGuinness walks through the Great Hall at Stormont after failing to nominate a candidate for the role of Deputy First Minister on January 16, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Former Deputy Northern Ireland First Minister Martin McGuinness walks through the Great Hall at Stormont after failing to nominate a candidate for the role of Deputy First Minister on January 16, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Mike Nesbitt and the Ulster Unionist Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster and the DUP Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Pacemaker Press 15/01/2017 Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness arrives at Storming on Monday morning. The secretary of state is set to call Assembly elections later if Sinn Féin fails to nominate a deputy first minister to replace Martin McGuinness. He quit when DUP leader Arlene Foster refused to stand aside as first minister while a botched energy scheme was investigated. Because they hold a joint office, the resignation automatically put the DUP leader out of her job. Elections must be called if the positions are vacant for seven days. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Jonathan Bell in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Arlene Foster and the DUP Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Martin McGuinness leaving the Great Hall following an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast where Sinn Fein declined to re-nominate a Stormont deputy first minister in a move set to collapse the powersharing executive in Belfast and trigger a snap election.. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2017. See PA story ULSTER RHI. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Arlene Foster and the DUP Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Arlene Foster and the DUP Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Naomi Long and the Alliance Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Arlene Foster and the DUP Party in the Great Hall of Stormont on 16th January 2017 (Photo - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Robin Newton speaking during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2017. See PA story ULSTER RHI. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Speaker Robin Newton during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2017. See PA story ULSTER RHI. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Video grab taken from the Northern Ireland Assembly of Michelle O'Neill speaking during an Assembly Plenary Session at Stormont in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 16, 2017. See PA story ULSTER RHI. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

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