Both the Government and its UK counterpart have conceded that an election is increasingly likely in Northern Ireland as Stormont's power-sharing administration heads for collapse.

The clock is ticking on dissolution of the devolved institutions, with Northern Secretary James Brokenshire set to order a poll at the start of next week.

The DUP has called for fresh negotiations to avoid a "brutal" contest but Sinn Féin insisted the matter should be placed before the people.

Earlier today, a Democratic Unionist Party minister reversed his controversial decision to cut an Irish language initiative in what some have interpreted as an olive branch.

After meeting the parties Mr Brokenshire said: "The reality remains, the high probability remains, that we are heading towards an election."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has also travelled to Belfast to try and avert a poll.

He said: "I believe an election is much closer. The Secretary of State on Monday, in my view, will be left with no choice but to dissolve the Assembly and announce an election."

A scandal over a botched green energy scheme which threatens to leave the taxpayer £490 million out of pocket precipitated the resignation of Sinn Féin's ailing deputy first minister Martin McGuinness on Monday.

It is a joint office so he took first minister Arlene Foster, who established the eco-boilers scheme, with him and has doomed the institutions to fall unless Sinn Féin nominates a successor next Monday - a step republicans have vowed not to take.

Sinn Féin minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said that there can be no credible talks or negotiations now.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, he said it is time for the electorate to give their view of the DUP in government.

The RHI scandal is unprecedented and the DUP forced Sinn Féin into this position, he said.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said it was too late for the former First Minister Ms Foster to say she will step aside while an inquiry gets underway.

"We are going to the people. The people will have the opportunity in a number of weeks to give their verdict on the behaviour of the DUP in government.

Mr Brokenshire said he did not want to pre-judge what the outcome of the vote might be and warned an election could be divisive.

DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan's decision to cut a $50,000 bursary to pay for children to visit the Gaeltacht infuriated Sinn Féin and has been seen as a key factor in the republican party's decision to pull the plug on the power-sharing institutions.

In a tweet this morning, Mr Givan said: "My decision on the Liofa Bursary Scheme was not a political decision.

"I have now identified the necessary funding to advance this scheme."

The development has been interpreted by some as a DUP olive branch to Sinn Féin.

Mr Flanagan said: "There is a window of opportunity, albeit extremely narrow. I believe we are facing into an electoral contest and the Irish Government is very conscious of the need to protect the institutions and also the integrity of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement."

Sinn Féin cited DUP "disrespect" towards the Irish language as one of the main reasons it had walked away.

Party president Gerry Adams branded Mr Givan an "ignoramus" for his decision to cut the bursary.

The move came as Alliance Party leader Naomi Long claimed the DUP had approached a party colleague and asked them to join lobbying of Mr Brokenshire to postpone calling a snap election.

"They simply asked if we would be willing to work on a cross-party basis to request to the Secretary of State that, rather than have an election, he suspend the institutions so we could have talks," she said.

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