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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Prepares Emergency Ireland Bill

LONDON -- Britain prepared an emergency bill Tuesday to preserve the Northern Ireland Assembly and permit its Protestant and Catholic leaders to forge a historic administration by a new May 8 deadline.

All parties pledged to support the bill, which must pass both houses of the parliament and be approved by Queen Elizabeth II before midnight Tuesday to prevent the automatic dissolution of the assembly.

Current law specifies that the assembly, which has the power to elect the 15-member administration, must be shut down Tuesday because it failed to elect an administration by Monday, a deadline that Britain for months insisted was "unbreakable."

Britain, however, began drafting a rescue bill following Monday's dramatic decision by Protestant leader Ian Paisley to open face-to-face talks with the major Catholic-backed party, Sinn Fein -- and, in a surprise move, to commit to the May 8 deadline for joint government.