SF: Extremists must not set agenda
Sinn Fein has pressed ahead with the launch of its Assembly election campaign, insisting that dissident republicans must not be allowed to hold the political process hostage.
Party president Gerry Adams said he and his colleagues thought hard whether to postpone the event in the wake of Pc Ronan Kerr's murder, but decided that violent extremists must not set the agenda.
Some events scheduled for Monday by other parties contesting May's election were called off.
But Mr Adams said: "Following the murder on Saturday of PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr Sinn Fein considered carefully whether or not we should proceed with this morning's launch. But the more we thought about it and discussed it, the more important it seemed to us that the political process cannot become a hostage to the unrepresentative group which murdered Constable Kerr. The peace process is too important for that.
"We are obviously conscious of the grief and pain being felt today by the family of Ronan Kerr, and Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson spoke for all of us over the weekend when they extended solidarity and support to the Kerr family."
Sinn Fein is fielding 40 candidates in Northern Ireland's 18 constituencies.
Mr Adams, now a TD in Louth following his election in the Republic of Ireland's General Election, was joined at the launch in Belfast's Waterfront Hall by party vice president Mary Lou McDonald.
"As republicans gathering here this morning and appealing for support from the electorate for the democratic demand of Irish unity and Independence we are making an important stand," said Ms McDonald.
"Every one of our Assembly candidates goes forward to the people on our platform of a peaceful roadmap to a united Ireland. Each one is making their contribution in standing up to those small unrepresentative groupings who seek to subvert Irish republicanism for their own narrow, selfish ends. Sinn Fein, with the support of the people, will never let this happen.
"So the message from this launch is very clear. Sinn Fein will continue to defend the peace process. We will continue to defend the political process and we will continue to demonstrate that politics does work and will work in the months and years ahead."