By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
A deadline to form a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland was extended on Friday, the U.K. government confirmed.
“Since the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March our focus has been on re-establishing inclusive, devolved government,” Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said in a statement.
The previous administration in Northern Ireland collapsed with the resignation of its Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over a botched energy saving deal called RHI in January.
Other issues about recognition of the Irish language and the legacy of violence from the 1968-1998 Troubles further soured relations between the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and their Irish nationalist opponents, Sinn Fein.
The DUP lost support in the March 2 election but managed to remain the biggest party, with a single-seat margin in the Assembly over Sinn Fein.
However, the recent decision by British premier Theresa May to push for a snap general election on June 8 has caused further uncertainty over Northern Ireland’s stability.
Northern Ireland currently sends 18 lawmakers to the U.K. parliament in London but Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats in Westminster.
Brokenshire insisted on Friday the coming general election would not prevent a local deal from being struck, claiming a Northern Ireland Executive could be formed “in the coming days should an agreement be reached”.
He set the new deadline for a new Executive at May 29. Without agreement, the divided region could be administered directly from London.