The Stormont power-sharing talks have had their “deep frost button” pressed, Ian Paisley has said.
Expressing concern about the future of the negotiations to restore the Assembly during the general election campaign, the DUP MP for North Antrim told the BBC: “We are seeing the freezer bags come out and the deep frost button being pressed on the Assembly.”
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the talks are under added pressure as a result of the prime minister calling a general election.
“But we shouldn’t allow things locally to drift further,” he said.
“At this crucial time, Northern Ireland needs a functioning Assembly and Executive. It is already disappointing that Westminster is legislating for something as local as the regional rate.
“The clear message coming from the health, education and business sectors is to get things back up and running,” Mr Swann added.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said the prime minister had shown a “blatant disregard” to the people of Northern Ireland, and that the general election was about “the Tory party’s self interest”.
Ms O’Neill added: “Theresa May has shown a blatant disregard for the people of the north again. We remain committed to trying to find a way through these issues, albeit it is more complicated because of Theresa May’s decision.”
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “We do not believe in setting red lines and preconditions above issues affecting health, education and the future of our public services. So that Executive is being held up by others,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the UK government said it “remains fully focused on the re-establishment of strong, stable devolved government” in Northern Ireland, and added: “To that end, we are working with the NI parties and the Irish government, as appropriate, to enable them to reach agreement on Executive formation and other issues, building on the discussions which have already taken place.”