11/01/2017 1:42 AM AEDT | Updated 11/01/2017 4:12 AM AEDT

Northern Ireland Government Tries To Avert Collapse After Leader's Resignation

An early election is “highly likely” as a result.

Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pauses before speaking to media at Stormont Castle as he arrives to greet Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos who is on a state visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The British government’s Northern Ireland minister warned on Tuesday that an early election in the province was highly likely following the resignation of deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, which effectively collapsed its devolved government.

McGuinness resigned on Monday in protest at First Minister Arlene Foster’s handling of a controversial green-energy scheme, risking political paralysis in the region as Britain plans its exit from the European Union.

“I am very clear that in the event of the offices not being filled, I have an obligation to follow the legislation. As things stand therefore, an early assembly election looks highly likely,” Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire told parliament.

“The situation we face in Northern Ireland today is grave and the government treats it with the utmost seriousness,” Brokenshire said.

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