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Top dissident says Sinn Fein 'must be genuine' about talks

A SENIOR dissident leadership figure has challenged Sinn Fein to prove it is serious about talks - before any dialogue between the two can begin.

Carl Reilly, chair of Republican Network for Unity (RNU), was responding to the recent speech by Martin McGuinness at his party's Ard Fheis.

In it, the Deputy First Minister again urged dissidents to come forward and talk.

But Reilly (right) wants proof that any dialogue will be "serious and genuine".

Security and intelligence sources believe the former prisoner from west Belfast is a key leadership figure in the faction Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), something that he denies.

That group has been linked to a series of recent attacks, including an attempt to target police in a border ambush - a plot involving a massive van bomb to be triggered by remote control.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Reilly said: "There are a number of issues that need to be ironed out before RNU can make a final decision on the benefits of any such meeting taking place."

And he stressed he was not prepared to enter talks with Sinn Fein to be lectured.

In his Ard Fheis speech, McGuinness chided dissidents, and described their actions as "a pathetic and futile attempt to turn back the clock".

Those comments prompted a response from Reilly.

"We need to meet on equal terms," he said.

"Sinn Fein continuously refers to people as micro groups, dissidents and criminals.

"In another example, Martin McGuinness calls for talks and in the same breath describes the people he wishes to have talks with as pathetic and futile.

"If Sinn Fein are as serious and genuine as Gerry Adams claimed after Martin McGuinness' speech then the actions and words of Sinn Fein need to prove that," he said.

Reilly said any talks would have to be facilitated by an independent chair and said it "would be unwise to talk about a sole or single issue".

He did not elaborate, but was clearly referring to continuing dissident armed actions.

"We have no influence or control over anyone other than Republican Network for Unity," he said.

This is dismissed by intelligence sources. They identify a border republican once linked to the mainstream IRA as the "major cog" directing ONH with Reilly another significant leadership figure - part of the group's so-called Army Council.

While that group has not yet issued a so-called "claim of responsibility", intelligence sources link it to the recent discovery of a 600lb van bomb on the border - now known to have been intended for an ambush on police.

And, more recently, the same faction targeted officers in two grenade attacks in Twinbrook.

Sinn Fein has not responded to Reilly's challenge.