A political stalemate in Northern Ireland has put the UK government in a tough spot.

It has two options: force the region to hold new elections; or take back control and rule from London.

The last time that happened, it took five years to give power back to Belfast.

The current deadlock means Northern Ireland has effectively been without its devolved government for three weeks.

Now that the deadline for parties to form a new executive has passed, the UK has a legal obligation to step in.

It all began when the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness withdrew his party from the Northern Ireland government. That triggered elections that were held on March 2.

But the two biggest parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and McGuinness's Sinn Fein, have failed to form another coalition.

So, what's next? Is direct rule from London an option?

Presenter: Martine Dennis

Guests:

Brian Rowan - Columnist for the Belfast Telegraph

Eamonn Mallie - Journalist and commentator

Ruth Dudley Edwards - Historian and author

Source: Al Jazeera News