The Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach have pledged to work together to find a way through the political crisis that has threatened devolution in Northern Ireland.
Theresa May and Enda Kenny had a 15-minute phone call on Tuesday night to discuss the crisis triggered by the resignation of deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.
The Sinn Fein veteran’s move, in protest at the Democratic Unionists’ handling of a botched renewable energy scheme, forced DUP first minister Arlene Foster from her post too.
The region now faces a snap election and the very real prospect of direct rule from Westminster being introduced if the fall-out between the DUP and Sinn Fein cannot be resolved on the other side of the poll.
While the looming collapse of power-sharing was triggered by the renewable heat incentive (RHI) affair – a scandal that has left Stormont with a £490 million bill – other vexed disputes between the two main parties have been reignited by the furore.
A spokesman for Mr Kenny said: “The Taoiseach and Prime Minister May were on the phone for about 15 minutes yesterday evening to discuss Northern Ireland.
“They agreed that the situation is very serious.
“They agreed that the two Governments would work closely over the coming period.
“In particular, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, will work closely together over coming days to see if a way forward can be found before an election has to be triggered.
“The Taoiseach and Prime Minister agreed to maintain close contact ahead of Theresa May's planned visit to Dublin at the end of January.”
Mr Flanagan and Mr Brokenshire have scheduled a series of meetings with Stormont’s parties in an effort to chart a way out of the crisis.