The man who for years was the secret link between the British Government and the IRA today said there should be dialogue with republican dissidents.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Derry businessman Brendan Duddy said: " My answer is, talking always helps.
"What we are doing is opening a door that might just save some human being," he continued.
In the past seven months, five police officers have been injured in dissident gun and bomb attacks. And yesterday, a former UDR soldier was forced to flee to England following a threat to his life from dissident republicans.
And the idea of a dialogue with the dissidents is not rejected by the senior police officer Peter Sheridan — an assistant chief constable with responsibility for Special Branch.
He will leave the police service in a few months time.
"That door always has to be left open. Terrorism — trying to murder police officers, that will not work," he added.
Mr Duddy said the dissidents have "a cause", but asked: "Will shooting a serving police officer help in any way whatsoever to advance their cause?"
Mr Duddy has been speaking to republicans since the early 1970s and trying to persuade them of an alternative to violence.
"In the earliest days the biggest problem I had was that decent ordinary people throughout the country were absolutely opposed to talking to paramilitaries, or to use their words, terrorists. Some of the saddest moments in my life were being turned away from church doors... The difficulty we have is that if shooting a police officer is the only alternative to dialogue, then we must choose dialogue," he added.
The man who was the link in the secret "back channel" between the British and Martin McGuinness in the period leading to the 1994 ceasefire continued: "What you are asking (the dissidents) is, Why are you doing this? Is there not a better way? Taking one life no matter whether the cause is Iraq, or Israel or Somalia drags us down as human beings," he said.
"There is always an alternative, but it can't be left to a senior police officer or a politician with set ideas. All of us must work in trying to understand.
"There are many reasons why dissidents exist," he continued. " For some it is pure principle. For others it may be a feeling of being abandoned or isolated. Others may feel that former comrades have taken the Queen's shilling."
DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said, however: "It is difficult to envisage what the purpose of such dialogue would be except to persuade those who engage in acts of terrorism that their violence will not succeed. The door to the democratic process is always open but let's be clear: those who wish to participate in that process cannot straddle the line between democracy and terrorism.
"If dissidents believe that by using violence they can somehow reopen negotiations to try and secure a different settlement from the one that we have they are gravely mistaken. Their violence will not succeed in re-opening negotiations or in altering the new political dispensation which is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in NI."
ACC Peter Sheridan told this newspaper. "Discussion is a two- way process. There would have to be a willingness on their part (the dissidents). "