UK's Northern Secretary admits situation in Stormont is 'grave'

A snap election is all but inevitable in the North following Martin McGuinness' resignation

UK's Northern Secretary admits situation in Stormont is 'grave'

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire. Picture by PA PA Wire/PA Images

The UK's Northern Secretary has admitted the situation in Stormont is "grave" and an election highly likely.

However, James Brokenshire has added his voice to warnings that an election itself may only harden the divisions between the ruling parties.

It comes in the wake of Martin McGuinness resigning as Deputy First Minister yesterday.

Sinn Féin say they will not be nominating anyone to replace him, which means a snap election is all but inevitable.

The resignation came amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Despite calls from Sinn Féin and opposition groups, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to stand aside during an investigation into the scheme, which was introduced when she was enterprise minister.

The RHI was designed to encourage businesses to replace older heating sources with more eco-friendly alternatives.

A lack of cost controls meant businesses were receiving more in subsidies than they were paying for renewable fuel, and the scheme was drastically oversubscribed.

It has been claimed the scheme could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers more than stg£400m (€539m).

“I want to see an investigation commenced quickly so that it will be independently demonstrated that I did nothing wrong and that my integrity is vindicated," Mrs Foster said Tuesday.

“This is vitally important from a political perspective but also fundamental for me on a personal basis. I have been quite disgracefully maligned in the most viscous manner and therefore it is of the utmost importance that the truth comes out.

“If necessary we will take our case to the electorate and use it as a platform for further discussions.

“I have never taken the verdict of the electorate of Northern Ireland for granted and while an election is not of our making we trust the judgement of the people", she added.

While speaking in London's House of Commons, MrBrokenshire says an election cannot repair the broken trust between the two parties.

He said there had been a "breakdown in the trust and co-operation that is necessary for the power sharing institutions to function effectively".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan denies that he could have done more to help the current political crisis.

"Obviously the issue upon which the resignation of Martin McGuinness took place [...] is an issue that is exclusively one for the internally elected representatives of Northern Ireland to deal with," he told Newstalk Breakfast.

"Obviously there are issues outside that that both governments can facilitate."

Last night, Arlene Foster took to Facebook to hit out at what she described as the "selfish actions" of Sinn Féin.

While Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr McGuinness had acted 'decisively'.

The party also denied that Mr McGuinness's resignation was due to illness.

Health Secretary Michelle O'Neill says it was purely about the political dispute with the DUP.

"He obviously has his health issues, and I think the decision in relation to what we're dealing with now has nothing to do with Martin's health," she said.