Northern Ireland's faltering power-sharing government is facing possible collapse after the Assembly voted down a bid to implement welfare reforms in the region.
The fall of the already long-delayed proposed legislation, prompted by Sinn Fein and SDLP opposition, leaves the stumbling administration facing a budgetary black hole estimated at around £600 million.
Unless political leaders can agree a lasting deal on welfare in the coming days and weeks, there is the very real prospect of a senior civil servant stepping in to take over departmental spends later in the summer, under tight financial constraints.
If the parties are effectively relieved of spending responsibility, one of the main partners in the Executive - the DUP and Sinn Fein - is likely to walk away and collapse the institutions.
In the absence of any local accommodation, the Democratic Unionists have suggested another alternative option - namely, the UK Government stepping in to implement welfare legislation over the head of the devolved five-party administration.
But Downing Street has shown no appetite for such a move, which would also likely be a resigning matter for Sinn Fein.
The owners of a Christian-owned bakery found guilty of discrimination for refusing to make a cake with a slogan supporting gay marriage have said they may appeal the landmark ruling.
Daniel McArthur, who runs Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland, said: "The ruling suggests that all business owners should be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it.
"Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can't be right."
ITV News reporter Ben Chapman reports:
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Ashers Baking Company has been ordered to pay damages of £500 plus court costs by a court in Belfast today.
The bakery chain, which is owned by a Christian family, was found to have been discriminating against a gay man after it refused to bake a cake with pro-gay marriage slogans on it.
Judge Brownlie accepted that the McArthur family had "genuine and deeply held religious beliefs" but said they must have been aware that Mr Lee was gay and were aware of the ongoing same sex marriage debate.
The judge added: "They must have known or had the perception that the plaintiff was gay.
"They must have known that the plaintiff supported gay marriage or associated with others who supported gay marriage."
Judge Brownlie added: "They [Ashers] are in a business supplying services to all. The law requires them to do just that."
A judge in Northern Ireland has found against a bakery in a discrimination case.
"This is direct discrimination and there is no justification for it," said Judge Isobel Brownlie about Asher Cakes' decision not to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it.
She rejected the bakers' argument that making the cake was showing support for same sex marriage.
"Baking the cake was merely obeying the law and providing the plaintiff with a service."
A bakery which refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan has been found guilty of discrimination.
Ashers Baking Company, run by the McArthur family, were accused of discrimination after it refused to produce a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto "Support Gay Marriage".
The family said they declined the order because the cake's message went against their religious belief.
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who ordered the cake, said he had been made to feel like a "lesser person" by the rejection.
In a landmark case at Belfast County Court, the judge ruled that the bakery had "unlawfully discriminated" against Mr Lee.
The manager of a bakery which refused to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage message on it has said that they made the decision "not because of the person but because of the message", ITV News reporter Ben Chapman reports.
Daniel McArthur, general manager of Asher's Bakery, said he and his family "fundamentally disagreed" with that message and "would not support a cause that goes against what the Bible says about marriage".
In a short statement before going into court, he said his family had been through "a difficult time, being dragged through the courts by a publicly funded body".
A verdict is due today in the case against a bakery in Northern Ireland which refused to bake a cake with pro-gay marriage message on it.
Ashers Bakery, run by the McArthur family, has been accused of discrimination after it declined to produce a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto "Support Gay Marriage".
The Northern Ireland Equality Commission - which monitors compliance with the region's anti-discrimination laws - brought the case on behalf of Gareth Lee, a volunteer member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space who initially ordered the cake.
Mr Lee claimed that he was left feeling like a lesser person when his money was returned two days after it was first accepted.
The McArthur family, who employ 80 staff across nine branches and deliver across the UK and Ireland, have been supported by the Christian Institute, which has paid their legal fees.
Karen McArthur, a founder and company director at Ashers, told the court she had accepted the request to avoid embarrassment or confrontation but, as a born-again Christian, knew she could not fulfill it.
The verdict is due this morning.
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