Belfast Telegraph

Real IRA rejects talks with priest

Dissident republican group the Real IRA has refused an offer from a Northern Ireland priest to hold talks with him.

The organisation has said police officers would be targeted regardless of their religion, culture, background or motivation. The threat was made at a rally in Londonderry on Monday.

Fr Michael Canny said he hoped talks would happen in the future.

"I heard through a source that I would consider to be reliable on Wednesday evening that they didn't want to meet," he told the BBC. "I certainly wasn't surprised but neither was I totally disappointed because the statement said 'at this time'.

"I consider that they obviously carefully considered what they were saying and the use of the phrase 'at this time' doesn't rule out the possibility of talking, not necessarily to me but to somebody else in the weeks or indeed in the months ahead," he said. "While it was somewhat disappointing, it was also hopeful."

Monday's rally was organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

It is regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation which claimed responsibility for the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people and unborn twins in 1998. It also killed two soldiers in Antrim two years ago and exploded a car bomb in Derry last year.

In a statement at a cemetery in Derry, the Real IRA also expressed its opposition to the Queen's impending visit to Ireland.

Father Canny said his door was "open next week and the week after, and indeed any time they so wish to use it".

"I would like to use the opportunity of talks to convince them that the only way they can obtain their goals is not through bomb or bullet, but rather through the democratic process and to talking not only to me and to other people, but also talking to the other people who are part of that equation, if they so wish to unite Ireland," he added.

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