Republican party calls for fresh elections in Northern Ireland

  • 11 January 18:47
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Northern Ireland's republican Sinn Fein party on Wednesday called for an election of the province's devolved assembly after the resignation of Martin McGuiness as deputy first minister prompted a political crisis.

After meeting with British state secretary for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, Sinn Fein member of assembly Michelle O'Neill warned that the people "must be allowed to have their say."

"We made it clear that we would not be re-nominating for the post of deputy first minister and told him he should call an election at the earliest possible opportunity," O'Neill said.

"We told him that there would be no return to the status quo and no return to direct rule. The crisis of confidence in the institutions has gone way beyond the RHI scandal," she added.

McGuiness resigned on Monday after Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster, representing the Democratic Unionist Party, failed to resign amid an investigation of a botched energy scheme called the Renewal Heat Incentive (RHI).

The energy scheme, developed by Foster when she served as the region's enterprise minister, could cost taxpayers up to 500 million British pounds ($605 million, 577 million euros).

Under rules established in 1998 to end decades of sectarian violence, Foster is effectively unable to carry out most of her functions without a deputy to work with her.

'Progress in jeopardy'

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament in London on Wednesday that the parties included in a power-sharing deal need to do more to end the political crisis.

"The progress that has been made in Northern Ireland has been hard-won and we must all recognize that we don't want to put that progress in jeopardy,"

"That is why I think it is so important for the government and for all parties to work as hard as we can to see a resolution to this issue so we can see a return to the power-sharing institution," she added.

The political crisis comes at a time when the British government prepares to launch negotiations to exit the EU by triggering Article 50.

ls/ksb (Reuters, dpa, AP)