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 Monday. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said the election to re-elect the Northern Ireland Assembly would be held 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 — centerpiece of Northern Ireland's peace accord — can ever be put back together again.
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" program overseen by Foster.
The program 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.
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