Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has stepped down & most of his Democratic Unionist ministers have quit over a crisis sparked by a murder linked to the IRA.
However, Mr Robinson's party colleague & Finance Minister Arlene Foster will remain in post & take over as acting First Minister.
The continuing presence of aÂ DUPÂ member appears to have staved off the immediate collapse of the devolved government.
But questions remain over how long the power-sharing administration can continue after the walkout of Mr Robinson & three of the DUP's four other ministers from the 13-member executive.
Stormont has been taken to the brink after a fatal shooting which police believe was carried out by members of the IRA.
This has ramped up pressure on Sinn Fein, given the paramilitary group was supposed to no longer exist.
Mr Robinson had warned hisÂ ministers would resign unless the regional Assembly was either adjourned or suspended to allow for crisis talks approximately the political implications of the killing.Â
But parties in the assembly voted to reject a DUP proposal to adjourn the power-sharing institutions.
The British Government had already said the "time is not right" for a suspension.
In a statement, Mr Robinson said: "In light of the decision by republicans, nationalists & the UUP to continue with business as usual in the Assembly, I am therefore standing aside as First Minister & other DUP Ministers will resign with immediate effect with the exception of Arlene Foster.
"I have asked Arlene to remain in post as Finance Minister & acting First Minister to ensure that nationalists & republicans are not able to take financial & other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland."
He moreover repeated a demand for the Westminster Government to suspend the institutions.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa VilliersÂ rejected this & called on the local parties to obtain round the negotiating table.
She said the DUP resignations would mean the operation of the executive would be much more difficult.
"It is a sign of a complete breakdown in working relationships within the executive," she said.
The DUP had issued the ultimatum after police investigating the murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in Belfast last month arrested three prominent republicans.
One of those detained wasÂ Sinn Fein's northern chairman Bobby Storey. All three have now been released.
Investigators believe members of the IRA were involved in the shooting of McGuigan, in what is thought to have been a reprisal attack for the murder of IRA commander, Gerard 'Jock' Davison, three months earlier.
The pair had been locked in a bitter feud.
Sinn Fein has rejected the police assessment that the IRA still existed & that some members had carried out a murder.
Source: “Sky News”