Political stability in Northern Ireland is 'responsibility of UK Government’
Downing Street has insisted that political stability in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the UK Government, as Stormont parties prepare to enter a third and final week of talks to restore the power-sharing institutions.
It comes after Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he and British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed there will be no return to direct rule in Northern Ireland in the wake of this month’s snap assembly election.
Responding to Mr Kenny’s comments, a UK Government spokesperson said: "Political stability in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the UK Government.
“We remain firmly focused on securing the resumption of devolved government and the formation of an Executive within the statutory timeframe of 27 March,” the spokesperson added.
“We are not speculating on any other outcome."
Addressing a business event at Bloomberg's offices in New York earlier this week, Mr Kenny had urged the parties at Stormont to focus on forming a new power-sharing executive, ruling out a return to direct rule from Westminster.
"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," Mr Kenny 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 power-sharing executive collapsed amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
Stormont politicians are now set to enter a third and final week of negotiations in a bid to strike a deal before the statutory deadline.
If the deadline passes without an agreement to bring together a new power-sharing executive between the DUP and Sinn Fein, the UK government is legally obliged to call another election.