James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said he is not contemplating any alternatives to a devolved government in Northern Ireland. This includes running the country on a basis of “joint authority” with Dublin.
Talking on the BBC Andrew Marr show he said, “I’m not contemplating any alternatives to devolved government in Northern Ireland. That is my absolute and resolute faith.
“My responsibility is to see that we are working with each of the parties to ensure that we are not looking at further division.
“My concern is that an election campaign will be divisive, will actually lead to greater distance between the parties.
“My absolute focus is on how we bring the parties together. There is a relatively short period of time after the election – about three weeks – to see an executive being formed.
“What I’m focused on is that we maintain the institutions. It’s important that we are working together to see that people are focused on the great opportunities for Northern Ireland.”
He added that the political turmoil in Northern Ireland will not derail Brexit.
A Stormont election is almost certain to happen. As such, Mr Brokenshire is concerned about the dangers of parties running divisive campaigns as this would make efforts to rebuild power sharing in Belfast harder.
Sinn Fein has until 5pm to replace deputy first minister Martin McGuinness. They have said they are not going to do this, triggering the election.
McGuinness resigned in protest of the handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, which is set to cost around £490 million. This scandal and other issues came to a head when McGuinness resigned.
Brokenshire said that despite the inevitable election they were committed to Brexit. He said, “I should also stress that we are not delaying the (Brexit) timetable. We still remain absolutely committed to triggering the Article 50 process by the end of March.
“Nothing changes that.”
He did add, however, that implementing a new executive was a priority.