The British and Irish governments are in secret negotiations with IRA dissidents says Northern Ireland First Minister Martin McGuinness. Sinn Fein recently stated that they had held talks with the groups.

Both governments have long stated that they would never negotiate with the dissidents while their violent campaign is continuing and they quickly denied the McGuinness assertion.

In a related development the U. State Department annual audit of terrorist groups stated for the first time that Irish Americans were aiding some of the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland.

McGuinness, a former IRA leader who was often in secret talks with Britain prior to the peace process, said he expected the governments to deny the talks.

"I do understand the governments will come out and say that this isn't true, it isn't happening, and they have all sorts of mechanisms and phrases to use which cover themselves," McGuinness told the BBC in Belfast.

"But the reality is that some of these dissident groups, I know for a fact, have been involved in discussions with both the Irish and the British governments in recent times."

McGuinness said IRA dissidents' willingness to talk "suggests to me that these groups are recognizing that, at some stage, they are going to have to wake up and smell the roses in terms of their inability to destroy the peace process and bring down the institutions that have such overwhelming support among our people."

Two groups the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA have continued to try and undermine the peace process.

The Real IRA carried out the most deadly attack of the troubles, killed 29 civilians in Omagh,County Tyrone in 1998 , mostly women and children.

n recent years both organizations have carried  out sporadic campaigns of violence.

For the first time the State Department annual report stated that both groups have secured cash and support from America, an assertion strongly denied in Irish American circles where very little support is noted.