Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Priest optimistic dissidents will talk

The Real IRA has declined an offer to meet Father Michael Canny
A member of the Real IRA reads a statement during a 1916 Easter Rising memorial at Cregan Cemetery in Londonderry

The Londonderry priest whose unconditional offer of dialogue with the Real IRA was rejected by the dissident republican group says he remains optimistic that the talks will still go ahead.

Father Michael Canny, administrator of St Eugene's Cathedral and spokesman for Bishop Seamus Hegarty, made his offer following a statement by the Real IRA at an Easter commemoration event in Derry which said the organisation would intensify its campaign of violence against PSNI officers.

On Wednesday a dissident republican source said they would not meet with Fr Canny “at this time” because the paramilitary group believed there would not be any merit in such talks.

However, Fr Canny said yesterday that despite the rejection of his offer, he was optimistic and hopeful that such discussions would take place.

“I feel that I have been somewhat knocked back by this rejection but today is another day,” he said.

“Really, the stakes here are very high, we are talking about matters of life and death.

“I do take some comfort from their statement which was not totally negative, because it stated they would not meet with me ‘at this time’.

“They have not ruled it out as a total non-runner. The phrase ‘not at this time’ has given me some confidence that talks may take place.

“This phrase was correctly used by them and I am confident that through me or other channels they will come to the table.

“I am an optimistic person by nature and I take comfort in the fact that their statement of initial rejection is not totally negative.

“I am sure they worded their statement in a deliberate way, and because of that I am not totally disappointed, in fact I am hopeful.”

Unionists have called for arrests in the wake of the rally and the threats made to police during it. The PSNI has said it is looking at the parade to see if any illegality took place.

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