There will be no return to direct rule from London if devolution collapses, the Sinn Fein president has warned the DUP.
Mary-Lou McDonald said that in the event of the powersharing government at Stormont collapsing completely, it will be replaced by a joint arrangement between the Irish and the British state.
There is just one week to form a Stormont Executive before Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris will be obliged by law to call a fresh Assembly election.
The DUP is refusing to nominate ministers to form a new Executive until the Westminster government takes decisive action on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
They argue the post-Brexit arrangements hamper trade and places a border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Also speaking on Friday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he wants to see fully functioning devolved government restored at Stormont but insisted that can only happen when the protocol is replaced by arrangements that unionists can support.
“No unionist MLAs or MPs support the protocol. That, as I warned 18 months ago, is not compatible with a functioning Executive,” he told party supporters in Lagan Valley.
The warnings come amid a backdrop of political chaos in London following the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss.
The next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister is set to be announced next week.
Speaking to the media during a visit to Downpatrick, Co Down, on Friday, Ms McDonald said events in London have had a “very negative impact in Ireland”.
She also said the DUP’s refusal to nominate ministers is “indefensible”.
“The DUP surely realise that people here need government, they need decisions, people that are trying to keep their businesses going, people and families that are trying to make ends meet, people on hospital waiting lists, need those who were elected to be working on their behalf, and for the life of me I cannot understand how it is or why it is that the DUP persist in denying people the government that they need,” she said.
“The clock is now ticking, we are facing the deadline, it’s now decision time. It’s now time for the DUP to act in the collective interest of everyone who lives here, irrespective of their political views, and get the Executive up and running.
“There won’t be a return to direct rule. If political unionism believes that by boycotting and wrecking the institutions of government here that there will be a return to direct rule they are sadly mistaken. The only alternative to the executive in Belfast working and powersharing working will be a joint arrangement between the Irish and the British state,” she said.
“There should be no doubt on that score.”