SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has responded to the announcement that Martin McGuinness is to step down as deputy First Minister.

Mr Eastwood said: “The public understand that there is one reason for this potential election - Arlene Foster’s arrogance.

"The SDLP is ready to fight an election. Last May the Executive offered a Fresh start and have now failed - we will offer the public the chance of change.”

“The public also knows that those behind ‘cash for ash’ scandal can now enjoy a two month break from any effective public inquiry or police investigation.”

“It ensures no immediate consequences for Arlene Foster, no emergency legislation to cap costs and no investigation into potential corruption. Each and every day this scandal is costing taxpayers £85,000.

“If the Executive is incapable of opening itself up to accountability, I would urge the electorate to enforce their accountability at the ballot box.

"On day one of a new mandate the SDLP will guarantee our first priority will be a full public inquiry.”

“The Sinn Féin statement references the attacks by the DUP on Irish identity and culture and on the equality agenda.  All of those statements and sentiments are true and I agree with them all. The DUP have governed disgracefully and it has extended well beyond the leadership of Arlene Foster.

"The nationalist community has watched this unfold year after year. However, the nationalist community also know that Sinn Féin have been the lead players in government with the DUP for over a decade. Sinn Féin were jointly in control and are therefore jointly responsible.”

“There is a difference between being tolerant and being timid.

"For years Sinn Fein have been addicted to appeasement and are only now waking up to the reality that the DUP have been running rings around them in government. “

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