You are here: Home » International » News » Politics
Business Standard

Northern Ireland unity government crumbles, faces March vote

A govt led jointly by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein had taken office in 2007

AP | PTI  |  Dublin 

Northern Ireland's shattered unity government will be dissolved next week to make way for an early election demanded by the coalition's main Irish Catholic party, the secretary of state for the British territory announced on Monday.

Secretary of State for James Brokenshire said the election to re-elect the Assembly would be held on March 2, six weeks after its dissolution.

Brokenshire's declaration became inevitable once the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party refused hours earlier to fill its vacated top post in the nearly decade-old coalition with the major British Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists.

The warring parties face a potentially brutal election that could determine whether their unity government, centrepiece of Northern Ireland's peace accord, can ever be put back together again.

Brokenshire appealed to both camps not to make their relationship even worse with bitter accusations on the campaign trail.

"While it is inevitable that debate during an election period will be intense, I would strongly encourage the political parties to conduct this election with a view to the future of and re-establishing a partnership government," Brokenshire told reporters at Stormont Castle, the centre of power-sharing in Belfast.

At stake is the resurrection of cross-community government, a goal sought by generations of peacemakers as the most logical way to end a conflict that has claimed 3,700 lives since the late 1960s.

Against the odds of history, a government led jointly by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein took office in 2007 and, until recent months, had governed the long-disputed corner of the United Kingdom with surprisingly few blow-ups.

Sinn Fein says it forced the government's collapse to protest the refusal of the Democratic Unionist leader, First Minister Arlene Foster, to step aside voluntarily.

As they left Stormont, Sinn Fein leaders accused the Democratic Unionists of poisoning their partnership by treating them abusively and refusing to be held accountable for the bungling of a "green energy" programme overseen by Foster.

The programme is expected to cost Northern Ireland, a land of barely 1.8 million citizens, 500 million pounds ($600 million) in ill-regulated and open-ended subsidies.

"There can be no return unless there's fundamental change in how the DUP approach power-sharing," Sinn Fein lawmaker Conor Murphy said.

First Published: Tue, January 17 2017. 04:16 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU