Belfast Telegraph

Theresa Villiers calls emergency meeting with Stormont party leaders over welfare row

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

An emergency meeting has been convened to try and save Northern Ireland's power sharing institutions.

The British and Irish Governments have called for political leaders to review the Stormont House Agreement next week.

The devolved administration is facing collapse over a failure to find agreement on controversial welfare reforms.

Unionists argue that without changes to the benefits system the Executive will be left with a £600 million funding gap while nationalists have opposed the move and used a blocking mechanism to veto legislation when it was brought to the Assembly earlier this week.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said: "The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers MP, has written to party leaders inviting them to a meeting of the Stormont House Agreement Review Group.

"It will take place on Tuesday 2 June at 3.30pm in Stormont House. The Irish Government will participate in accordance with their responsibilities under the three stranded approach."

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs also issued a similar invitation.

It said: "The failure this week of the Welfare Bill to secure approval in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the consequent budgetary implications, have a direct and major impact on the prospects for implementing the totality of the Stormont House Agreement.

"Accordingly, following consultation with the British Government, it has been decided that a review and monitoring meeting of the Stormont House Agreement will take place on Tuesday, 2 June.

"Invitations have today been extended to the leaders of the Northern Ireland Executive parties.

"Minister Charlie Flanagan will lead the Irish Government delegation."

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