Belfast Telegraph

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

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.

"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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