NORTHERN IRELAND has achieved a unique milestone by breaking the world record for the longest peacetime period a country has spent without a functioning government.
As of Wednesday August 29, 2018, there has been no power-sharing Executive at Stormont for some 590 days - overtaking the previous record of 589 days set by Belgium.
Public protests took place in towns and cities across the North yesterday urging Sinn Féin and the DUP to get over their differences and begin talks.
A demonstration was planned to go ahead outside Belfast City Hall but had to be cancelled due to the Primark fire just 100m away.
Nevertheless, thousands of protesters attended rallies in Derry, Armagh, Newry, Banbridge, Bangor, Portadown, Dungannon, Newcastle, Warrenpoint and Enniskillen as well as elsewhere in Belfast.
590 days and counting
DUP leader Arlene Foster was joined by party Assembly members and MPs at Parliament Buildings, Stormont yesterday to unveil a banner reading "Sinn Féin End Your Boycott!"
She said: "If Sinn Féin continues with the boycott of the Assembly and the Executive then the Secretary of State is going to have to take decisions for the betterment of Northern Ireland.
"We cannot continue without a government in Northern Ireland. The DUP was willing to be in an Executive yesterday, is willing to be in an Executive today and will be willing to be in an Executive tomorrow".
But Sinn Féin's leader in the North, Michelle O'Neill, accused the DUP of collapsing a previous round of talks over the reestablishment of power-sharing.
"We had an agreement in February which paved the way for the re-establishment of the Executive, but the DUP reneged on this agreement and collapsed the political talks," Ms O'Neill said.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood added it was "embarrassing" that Northern Ireland had set a new world record for non-governance and called on the British and Irish Governments to step in.
"We've spent nearly 19 months arguing about whose fault this is, my view is no number of meetings between Sinn Féin and the DUP are going to resolve the issue," he said.
"It now needs the two governments. They are the co-guarantors of our peace process and the Good Friday Agreement - they need to step in."