Arlene Foster 'open to talks' to avert meltdown of power-sharing institutions

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster (centre) holds a Press conference with her Northern Ireland Executive ministers at DUP party Head quarters in Belfast as the UK Government has appealed to Northern Ireland's political leaders to step back from the brink of the current political crisis
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster (centre) holds a Press conference with her Northern Ireland Executive ministers at DUP party Head quarters in Belfast as the UK Government has appealed to Northern Ireland's political leaders to step back from the brink of the current political crisis

Stormont's former First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is open to talks with Sinn Fein to avert a meltdown of Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions.

The Democratic Unionist leader also announced plans for a public inquiry into the botched green energy scheme that prompted the resignation of the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Monday.

She insisted the inquiry could go ahead without the sign-off of the DUP's partners in government, Sinn Fein.

"We are willing to take part with any discussion to see if a way forward can be found," she said.

"I remain open to further discussions with Sinn Fein or any of the other parties in the Assembly over the next few days."

The departure of Sinn Fein veteran Mr McGuinness amid a row over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) forced Mrs Foster from her job as First Minister as well.

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

Theoretically the parties have seven days to resolve their differences before Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has to call a snap poll.

However, Mr McGuinness has made clear there will be no going back to the status quo and his party is preparing to face the electorate.

Mrs Foster said a DUP minister would announce plans for a public inquiry into the RHI affair later this week. The furore has left Stormont facing a £490 million overspend.

She said it was important for Stormont's reputation and her own.

"It's needed to restore confidence in the institutions and also for me personally, to retain my integrity, which has been completely maligned over this past number of weeks and months," she said.