Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to travel to Belfast for Stormont talks

Gerry Adams says his party is "always open for talks"

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to travel to Belfast for Stormont talks

File photo | Image: Department of Foreign Affairs

The Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has warned a snap election could make it harder to save the power-sharing government in North Ireland.

Mr Flanagan says every effort has to be made to stop the current power-sharing executive from collapsing, even if it seems likely.

He is to travel to Belfast tomorrow to speak to political leaders in a bid to patch up the rows between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

And he says a snap election could make it even harder to repair the trust afterwards.

"I am concerned at the fragile nature of politics in Northern Ireland

"I believe a decisive election campaign that will polarise public opinion in Northern Ireland will not be helpful at this time", he added.

His comments come as Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has left the door open for talks to save the Stormont Executive from collapse, despite others in his party insisting an election is now unavoidable.

But Mr Adams says he believes an election is necessary.

The party is meeting with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny this afternoon with just days before an election is triggered.

An offer from the DUP to talks on establishing an inquiry into the 'cash for ash' scandal appeared to be rebuffed from many in Sinn Féin.

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted this morning an election is unavoidable - while outgoing Stormont health minister Michelle O'Neill says the party is not interested in negotiations pre-election.

"We're always open for talks"

But speaking to reporters in Dublin, Gerry Adams appeared to leave the door open for last minute talks.

“Whether or not we can meet today is one matter – but we're always open for talks and we’re always open to meet, of course we are”, he said.

Mr Adams says he spoke with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, Tuesday night while a Sinn Féin delegation has also met him in Stormont this morning.

He has also called on the Irish and British Governments to play a bigger role in managing the peace process - and not just get involved when ther is a crisis.

It comes as an inquiry into the 'cash for ash' scandal in Northern Ireland is expected to be announced later.

New elections appear inevitable after Martin McGuinness stepped down as deputy first minister earlier this week.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed earlier they will not get a fair deal without holding a public vote.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, she explained: "Martin resigned with a heavy heart, and certainly this is not the sequence of events as we would wish to have them unfold - but this is where we're at.

"Far from throwing everything down the drain, what we're saying at this juncture is for power-sharing and the process to work - and to take the next big steps forward - the power-sharing has to be genuine.

"That means that the DUP as partners in government have to become Good Friday Agreement complaint; they have to understand, embrace and demonstrate the concept of equality; they have to stop treating vast sections of the population with utter disdain."

The problems revolve around the controversial Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme, which was designed to encourage businesses to replace older heating sources with more eco-friendly alternatives.

However, 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.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by phone last night about the Stormont crisis.