Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has criticised Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson after he ruled out talks with dissident republicans.
With three bomb attacks in Derry, Bangor and Kilkeel in less than a week, the escalating terrorist campaign is causing increasing concern among security chiefs in Belfast and Dublin.
Gerry Adams said that Sinn Fein wants to initiate dialogue with the political groups aligned to some armed republican factions in an attempt to persuade the organisations to end the violence.
Mr Adams’ stance, however, is at odds with that of Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who insisted that there will be no moves by the Government to start a negotiating process in a bid to persuade the dissidents to end the attacks.
Following Mr Paterson's |refusal to meet with dissident republicans yesterday, Mr Adams said: “I do not have any great time for Owen Paterson. Of course people should talk. That is commonsense.”
Mr Adams added that the attempt by Sinn Fein to initiate dialogue with the political groups linked to some armed republican factions “is a genuine attempt by us to put very directly to these groupings that ongoing armed actions have no place in the struggle for Irish unity”.
“There is a peaceful and democratic way forward now — the vast majority of republicans are on it. As the party elected by republican communities to lead, we have a responsibility to provide political leadership. This is what we are doing,” he said.
Mr Adams has written to all of the dissident republican groups hoping to persuade them to seek Irish unity through peaceful, political means.
An offer to enter into talks was met with a refusal from Republican Sinn Fein who said Mr Adams “stopped listening to fellow republican leaders when he embarked on the peace process”.
The party is thought to have received a more positive response from the 32-County Sovereignty Movement — the political wing of the Real IRA, which has been responsible for a string of attacks, including the Omagh bombing and last |week’s car bomb attack on a Derry police station. Gerry Kelly MLA said that he was to lead talks with the group “within weeks”.
However, after Sinn Fein made news of the talks public, the 32-County Sovereignty Movement accused the party of publicity seeking and said that it believed the discussions were to focus on issues surrounding dissident republican prisoners held in Maghaberry.
Attempts by Sinn Fein to hold talks with dissident republican representatives come during an upsurge in terrorist attacks on security forces.
In the last week alone, a |car bomb exploded outside a |police station in Derry while two bombs left under the cars of an Army major and a police woman in Co Down failed to detonate.
Mr Adams said, however, that the dissidents have “no purpose, no strategy and no mandate”.
“People should not be afraid. Of course these people can kill but the peace process is not going to be damaged,” he said.
“We are going to pursue our agenda.
“We are not going to let anyone set the agenda for us.”