Northern Ireland power-sharing agreement deadline is today: What next for the Stormont Assembly?

 
Caitlin Morrison
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People walk past the Stormont Assembly b...
Talks between Northern Ireland's largest parties collapsed at Stormont yesterday (Source: Getty)

The deadline for Northern Ireland politicians to form a new power-sharing executive is today, and seems likely to pass with no decision made.

Northern Ireland's executive must be run jointly by unionists and nationalists and the largest party, the DUP, must put forward a candidate for first minister.

These talks were brought about by snap Assembly elections on 2 March, which were called after then-deputy first minister Martin McGuinness stepped down over a scandal concerning a botched renewable energy incentive scheme.

Sinn Fein had called for the resignation of former first minister Arlene Foster due to her connection to the controversial scheme.

In his resignation letter, McGuinness - who has since died - said: "The first minister has refused to stand aside, without prejudice pending a preliminary report from an investigation. That position is not credible or tenable."

The former Sinn Fein leader said he was calling for an election "to allow the people to make their own judgement on these issue democratically".

The subsequent vote saw the DUP's lead against Sinn Fein cut dramatically, from 10 seats to one. Just over 1,000 votes split the main parties in the closest ever assembly election, with voter turnout at its highest in two decades, and the DUP won 28 of 90 seats while Sinn Fein secured 27. The parties then had three weeks in which to strike a power-sharing deal.

Yesterday, talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed, and it now looks unlikely that an agreement will be reached on by the deadline of 4pm today.

This leaves Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire MP with three options: fresh elections, a return to direct rule from Westminster or trying to wrangle more time in which to reach an agreement.

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