Theresa May and Enda Kenny in call for ‘respectful’ election

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Theresa May and Enda Kenny have urged a “respectful” election campaign in Northern Ireland after a snap poll was triggered by the collapse of the power-sharing executive.

Both leaders spoke by telephone after Secretary of State James Brokenshire confirmed the region will go to the ballot box on March 2 amid a deepening political crisis.

The Taoiseach’s spokesman said the pair discussed the bitter fall-out and regretted that the DUP and Sinn Fein had been unable to reach agreement.

“They both expressed the hope that the election campaign would be respectful, noting that following the election the Northern Ireland parties would once again have to engage on the various challenges they face,” he said.

“The Taoiseach and Prime Minister repeated their desire to see the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement operating effectively, and in particular to have a fully-functioning Executive in place as soon as possible.”

Speculation has been mounting of a rancorous election campaign in the weeks ahead given the widening divergence between the two main parties at Stormont.

If a new power-sharing administration cannot be formed after the March elections, the region faces the prospect of yet another election or even direct rule being reimposed from Westminster.

Mrs May and Mr Kenny also spoke about the Prime Minister’s much-anticipated speech to be delivered on Tuesday, which is expected to set out Britain’s Brexit plan.

The Taoiseach reiterated a number of key concerns for Ireland during the conversation, focusing on economic and trading relationships, the common travel area and the peace process, including concerns about the border.