Updated: 11/01/17 : 07:02:18
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Foster 'open to talks' with Sinn Féin

Northern Ireland's former First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is open to talks with Sinn Féin to avert a meltdown of power-sharing institutions.

The Democratic Unionist leader also announced plans for a public inquiry into the botched green energy scheme that prompted the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Monday.

She insisted the inquiry could go ahead without the sign-off of the DUP's partners in government, Sinn Féin.

"We are willing to take part with any discussion to see if a way forward can be found," she said at a news conference.

"I remain open to further discussions with Sinn Féin or any of the other parties in the Assembly over the next few days."

The departure of Sinn Féin veteran Mr McGuinness amid a row over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) forced Ms Foster from her job as First Minister as well.

Theoretically the parties have seven days to resolve their differences before Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has to call a snap poll.

However, Mr McGuinness has made clear there will be no going back to the status quo and his party is preparing to face the electorate.

Ms Foster said a DUP minister would announce plans for a public inquiry into the RHI affair later this week.

The furore has left Stormont facing a £490m overspend.

She said it was important for Stormont's reputation and her own.

"It's needed to restore confidence in the institutions and also for me personally, to retain my integrity, which has been completely maligned over this past number of weeks and months," she said.

Earlier, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told MPs that the situation in Northern Ireland is "grave" and that early elections look likely.