Belfast Telegraph

‘More than one process’ in talks with dissidents

By Brian Rowan

Secret contacts with republican dissident groups are happening in more than one hidden process, according to a well-placed source with detailed knowledge of one of the background talking initiatives.

Yesterday in this newspaper that source disclosed details of contacts involving dissidents, government officials and intermediaries.

He did so after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claimed the British and Irish governments were talking to representatives of the armed groups — a claim dismissed in Dublin and Belfast.

But our source backed the McGuinness version of events, revealing: “There is first of all dialogue between our facilitators and the various dissident groups.

“And then there is also discussion between our people and representatives of governments, British and Irish.”

He described the process as “separate conversations”, and explained how it is being funded by a number of independent trusts.

Contacted again yesterday, the source said: “What is clear to me, there is more than one process”. Meaning there is contact that goes beyond the initiative he is involved in.

But he said he now feared the McGuinness interview could damage the behind-the-scenes dialogue — contacts designed to try to persuade dissidents to end their violent campaigns.

“The worrying thing now is whether these people (dissident groups) are going to run scared,” he said. “It’s going to whirl around.

“Hopefully, when things settle down, things will come back to normal.”

Another source watching developments said there was no shift in the dissident position of “Brits out”.

That source suggested the British Government was keeping “a watching brief, listening to people who say they are talking to them (the dissidents)”.

These claims of background talking and contacts coincide with a recent surge in dissident activity.

These included a car bomb explosion and the targeting of security personnel in planned attacks using booby-trap devices.

And it is being stressed that there is no guarantee that these private contacts will change anything on the ground.

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