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Date set for Northern Ireland election

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has announced that Northern Ireland will go to the polls on Thursday 2 March, following the collapse of the political institutions.

The Stormont Assembly will sit for the last time next Wednesday, 25 January, before being officially dissolved a day later.

Mr Brokenshire again expressed concerns about how divisive an election could be and stressed that all the political parties must “think about the future of Northern Ireland”.

He said: “No one should underestimate the challenge faced to the political institutions here in Northern Ireland and what is at stake.

“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 Northern Ireland and re-establishing a partnership government at the earliest opportunity after that poll.

“This is essential for the operation of devolved government. And this means that all must remain open to dialogue.”

Sinn Féin's Catherine Seeley will not stand in next Assembly election

Catherine Seeley, pictured, will not be standing in the next Assembly election. Credit: Pacemaker

Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA Catherine Seeley has decided not to stand in the next Assembly election.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has wished her well for the future.

"In her relatively short time as a public representative Catherine has made a real difference, first as a Councillor and then as a MLA,” he said.

“She has now decided to return to teaching and I wish her well in that.

“Catherine is a committed Sinn Féin activist. She will continue to play a full part in the party, including as an election agent."

It comes after South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane announced she will not be putting herself in the running after 14 years representing the constituency.

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Sinn Féin triggers collapse of Stormont Executive

Sinn Féin has declined to re-nominate a deputy first minister in a move set to collapse the powersharing executive in Belfast and trigger a snap election.

Barring a highly unlikely U-turn by the republican party, the institutions will now fall at 5pm on Monday and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will be legally obliged to call the election.

The DUP renominated their party leader as First Minister at the start of Assembly business at Parliament Buildings on Monday.

Nominating Ms Foster, Lord Morrow said: “We will decide who the leader of our party is, not someone else in this chamber.

“We don’t dictate to others who should be their leader and no one is going to dictate to us today who the leader of our party.”

However Sinn Féin declined to replace Mr McGuinness.

The Sinn Féin veteran quit over the Democratic Unionists' handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O’Neill, said: “If we are to return to this chamber then there must be real meaningful change. There must be respect and equality for all sections of our society.

“These institutions must operate to the highest standard with no place for arrogance or malpractice. It’s now over to the people to have their say.”

Hamilton discusses plan to cut RHI cost to £2.5m

Economy Minister appeared before Stormont's Economy committee on Monday.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has been setting out his plan to cut the cost of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme to the public purse to the department’s committee at Stormont.

Mr Hamilton’s department has been working on a plan to reduce the cost of the controversial RHI scheme which is currently estimated to be £490m over the next 20 years.

The DUP Minister appeared before the Economy Committee alongside his permanent secretary Dr Andrew McCormick on Monday.

No Sinn Féin MLAs attended the hearing as they have refused to take part in any Assembly business since Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy First Minister a week ago.

In the absence of Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy as committee chair, the Ulster Unionist MLA Steven Aiken stepped in to chair the meeting. Simon Hamilton told the committee that his cost-cutting plan would reduce the payments for RHI from £30m next year to £2.5m.

He admitted that the Department of Finance has, so far, not approved the plan. Mr Hamilton also said, if it got the go ahead, the plan would be put in place for a year.

The Economy committee has been meeting ahead of what is expected to be a day of upheaval at Stormont which could end in the announcement of a snap election.

Sinn Féin has indicated that it will refuse to nominate a deputy First Minister at the start of business.

However, the RHI cost plan is still expected to be debated by MLAs during the day.

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