Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein plans talks with dissident group

Sinn Fein is set to hold ground-breaking talks with one of the main republican splinter groups, it was confirmed last night.

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement has agreed to meet the mainstream republican party following repeated requests from Gerry Adams for discussions with all breakaway and so-called ‘dissident’ groups.

Stormont Executive junior minister Gerry Kelly is to head up the Sinn Fein delegation for the talks, which are being earmarked for September.

The 32 County Sovereignty group has been viewed as the political wing of the Real IRA but rejects the term.

A spokesman for the organisation was not immediately available for comment last night.

Mr Adams, however, said the 32 County Sovereignty Movement was the only group which had sent a written reply to his letters requesting meetings.

The Sinn Fein president has made repeated overtures to the various splinter organisations over recent years, the most recent well before the July 12-15 Ardoyne riots and the most recent dissident republican attacks in Londonderry and Bangor.

Mr Adams has urged those who are “politically aligned” with the dissident paramilitaries to come forward to articulate their positions and attempt to win any support they can from within the broad nationalist and republican communities.

The West Belfast MP has been warned by police six times over the last eight months that dissident groups intend to kill him and other senior republicans.

But Mr Adams said: “The way to defeat them is by doing what we're doing, is by challenging them, is by giving people a peaceful and democratic way forward, and is by seeking popular support for that.”

The prospect of inter-republican discussions comes in the same week Mr Adams and a Sinn Fein delegation met for the first time with loyalist parades activists.

Both Mr Adams and the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum, which included members of the Apprentice Boys, said the two-hour talks at Belfast City Hall on Monday were “worthwhile” and a further meeting is planned.

Background

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement was founded at a meeting of republican activists near Dublin in December 1997 - a few months before the Good Friday Agreement.

Most of those present were members of Sinn Fein who said they found themselves increasingly marginalised amid concerns over the direction in which Sinn Fein was headed.

It denies being the political wing of the Real IRA.

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