Gerry Adams has insisted that his bid to engage with dissident republicans is not a stunt.
The Sinn Fein president said his request for talks with the political representatives of those still wedded to violence was a genuine attempt to convince them that armed conflict was not the way to achieve Irish unity.
Mr Adams has called for meetings with a range of disparate groups that are linked to dissidents, but one of them - the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, which is the Real IRA's political wing - accused Sinn Fein of seeking publicity.
The west Belfast MP said this was not the case: "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. This is not a stunt."
The development has come as dissidents stepped up their attacks on security forces in Northern Ireland. In the last week a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Londonderry while two booby trap bombs left under the cars of an Army major and police woman in Co Down failed to detonate.
After claims from Sinn Fein that talks with the 32 County Sovereignty Movement were imminent, the group responded by claiming it believed the discussions were to focus on issues surrounding dissident republican prisoners held in Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim. A spokesman said no firm arrangement on a wider meeting was agreed and accused Sinn Fein of seeking publicity.
Mr Adams said dissidents had a right to disagree with Sinn Fein's strategy, but said violence would not achieve their goal of Irish unity. He said: "Everyone is well aware of our position on the armed groups. These groups have the absolute right to disagree with the Sinn Fein strategy. They have every right to oppose us politically and in elections. Indeed they have done in the past and the republican community has delivered their verdict.
"There is a peaceful and democratic path available to a united Ireland - 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.
"We want these groups to reflect on the political realities of Ireland in 2010. Their activities play into the hands of rejectionist unionism and those elements of the British system who seek to limit and frustrate the process of change.
"This engagement is about pointing out to these groups the futility of ongoing armed actions and the political space that is there for them to move into. We have also been active in trying to assist in a resolution to the situation in Maghaberry. Clearly some of the groups contacted by us do not wish to engage. Others do and I would expect these meetings to take place shortly."