Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
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Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has met with dissident Republicans and Loyalists and urged them to lay down their arms.
The Sinn Fein vice-president has revealed he has met leaders of various dissident groups from both sides including the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA in a bid to persuade them to stop the violence.
The former IRA man has also urged politicians of both sides to embrace the latest peace talks brokered by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass.
Speaking at the Sinn Fein annual convention in Wexford, McGuinness discussed his latest meetings with dissident Republicans after recent escalations in violence in the North.
He told the Ard Fheis (convention): “A debate on a ceasefire has been developing among some factions in recent weeks.
“I have and will sit down and talk with all republicans and loyalists opposed to the peace process.
“Militarist actions by a few small groups will only set back the progress being made towards a united Ireland,” he said.
“They should stop their activities immediately. The growing public expression among some anti-peace process republicans against armed actions is to be welcomed.
“I have been strongly of the opinion that political leaders must engage in dialogue with everyone, including those in groups involved in violence.
“Indeed, in recent times, I have met with anti peace process elements, both republican and loyalist, to argue for an end to their activity.
“I restate our willingness to engage with these groups and without pre conditions.”
The Belfast Telegraph reports that McGuinness also urged all politicians to back the Haass talks or miss out on a huge opportunity to move forward on flags, parades and how to deal with the past in Northern Ireland.
He added: “My commitment is to work with those unionists that want to see progress, to consolidate the peace process and turn the political process into one which is solely about delivery not survival.
“The starting point must be to honour those agreements already made. To deliver fully on the Programme for Government. To sort out difficulties around the table with the other parties, and not in intra unionist forums. To embrace partnership and equality.
“We can unleash the true potential of our people if we can see progress on these age old issues and unite behind the common goal of building a better future for our young people.”
Before the convention opened, McGuinness apologised to the family of policeman Seamus Quaid who was shot in October 1980 when he stopped a van carrying IRA explosives at Cleariestown, County Wexford.
Quaid’s family had removed a plaque in his honor from the Opera House venue in protest at the presence of Sinn Fein members in the building.