Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has said he will not be intimidated by the dissident republican groups he has branded traitors to Ireland.
He again hit out at the dissidents who have murdered three security force members in the past week, and said they had only strengthened the resolve of politicians.
The Deputy First Minister is in the United States with First Minister Peter Robinson to hold talks with business leaders and to meet President Barack Obama.
Mr McGuinness said US audiences were impressed by the united front shown by Sinn Fein and the DUP in opposition to the gunmen and he denied stepping up his personal security over fears of attack.
“I am not concerned about my safety and my security,” he said.
“I and others in the political process have the overwhelming support of the people of Ireland for what we are doing.”
He dismissed the dissident groups who have singled him and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams out for criticism as mere ‘micro-groups’.
“I am not in the least exercised by any of this. I am not going to be intimidated,” said Mr McGuinness.
He said the meeting with President Barack Obama tomorrow as part of the St Patrick’s Day engagements at the White House would be an important moment.
The Mid Ulster MP said successive US administrations had given huge support to the peace process, while President Obama had also already come out in support of the Northern Ireland power-sharing government.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s meeting with the president, he said: “To receive his endorsement sends a very powerful message to rejectionists, whether of the republican or loyalist kind.”
Last night Mr McGuinness said some of those now speaking in support of the dissidents had only recently resurfaced after disappearing from view.
“We have had some statements from these people,” he said. “Some of the mouthpieces of the organisations that have been involved in these attacks, some have been missing for 20 years and only really came on the scene when the IRA ceasefire was declared.
“This raises questions about their agenda.”