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Snap election for Northern Ireland to be held on 2 March

Secretary of State James Brokenshire confirmed the Assembly will be dissolved on 26 January.

File photo of Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster
File photo of Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Updated 6.15pm

THE NORTHERN IRELAND Assembly will be dissolved on 26 January and an election will be held on Thursday, 2 March.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire confirmed the dissolution of parliament at a news conference this evening.

He said that under relevant legislation, he was obliged to provide a date for the next Northern Ireland Assembly election.

A second election in eight months was more-or-less guaranteed when Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness resigned the position of Deputy First Minister last week.

Last ditch efforts by Prime Minister Theresa May to encourage Sinn Féin and the DUP to reach a deal to save the power-sharing executive failed this morning.

Sinn Féin failed to nominate a replacement for McGuinness, leaving both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister positions vacant at the 5pm deadline and therefore collapsing the executive.

Brokenshire, who is due to make a further statement in parliament tomorrow, called for political leaders in the north to “use the time ahead as calmly as we possibly can”.

He refused to be drawn on speculation that the DUP and Sinn Féin will fail to reach an agreement to return to power-sharing even after polling day.

“There is a period between now and polling day and a short period after polling day – that three week period… We have to use all the time ahead to see there is open communication… and where there is difference, to see where it can be overcome,” he noted.

Brokenshire also confirmed that the elections would not impact when Article 50 is triggered to kickstart the process of Great Britain leaving the European Union. He said the British government “remains very intent” on doing so by the end of March.

Earlier

Arriving at Stormont today, outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster criticised Sinn Féin for forcing fresh elections, accusing the party of ‘pursuing political self-interest’.

“They did not like the election result last May and… they are looking at another go,” she said.

McGuinness said the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Foster’s refusal to stand aside temporarily to allow for an investigation were his primary reasons for quitting.

However, he also took aim at the DUP for undermining the institutions, describing the Unionists as ‘arrogant’.

Over the past week, Sinn Féin members have cited their former partner’s stance on the Irish language and LGBT rights as further sticking points.

Co-guarantors

Commenting on the dissolution of the Assembly, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan called on all parties to ”act responsibly in word and deed so that the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement will not be damaged in the longer term”.

“As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Government will continue to work with the British Government and the political parties to advance political stability, reconciliation and economic prosperity in Northern Ireland,” he added in a statement.

Explainer: What is the ‘cash for ash’ scandal?

Earlier: The deadline has passed and Northern Ireland is heading for a snap election

More: Martin McGuinness criticises the Irish Times, saying he wants his privacy respected during illness

Read: How the Irish language drove a wedge between Northern Ireland’s Assembly

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