A senior Catholic priest in Derry has offered to meet the leadership of the Real IRA in an effort to persuade them to lay down their arms.

Fr Michael Canny made the offer after politicians on both sides of the border condemned the Real IRA’s latest threat to kill police officers and disrupt the Queen’s visit to the Republic.

Public anger and political outrage has followed the declaration of continued violence and bloodshed by a Real IRA spokesman at a 1916 commemoration ceremony in Derry on Monday.

The hooded spokesman, dressed in paramilitary uniform, said the Real IRA would continue to target police officers regardless of their religion and also vowed to protest at the Queen’s visit next month.

Now Fr Canny, administrator of St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry, has volunteered to meet the dissident Republican group’s leadership in an effort to persuade them to drop their violent threats.

“By their actions they have placed themselves outside the democratic process and it is incumbent on us all to persuade them to reflect on that position,” said the well known priest.

“To that end I would be willing to meet with them, to listen to them and to tell them where their campaign is going. Their campaign means death, imprisonment and misery and has nothing to offer society.

“These dissidents are a small unrepresentative minority whose methods will result in death, despair and misery for society and for themselves. The time for that is long past.”

Political leaders on both sides of the border have condemned Monday’s declaration of intent by the Real IRA, one of three dissident groups currently stepping up paramilitary activities in the North.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness described the renewed threat to kill PNSI officers as ‘bizarre’.

McGuinness also denounced the dissidents and said none of them can claim to represent the IRA.

“These groups are running around describing themselves with various titles with ‘IRA’ in it. They would be more appropriately regarded as not the IRA but more akin to Baader-Meinhof or the Red Brigade groups,” said McGuinness.

“These stupid and selfish dissidents are betraying the people, trying to sabotage the peace process, end working relations with unionists at Stormont and turn back the clock on policing.

“They are imposters who are doomed to failure. Not just Sinn Féin but all of the other political parties on this island and the Catholic Church, the GAA, Protestant churchmen - they see all of us as the enemy.”
The Irish government in Dublin has also criticized the Real IRA statement and denied any contact with the dissidents.

A government source told the Irish Times: “There is nothing for the Irish Government to talk about with these people.

“The Irish Government has not been engaged in any channels, backwards or otherwise, in terms of the issues that the dissidents are raising.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore said he was ‘absolutely disgusted’ by the threats made in Derry on Monday.

“The sight of somebody appearing in a mask and menacingly threatening Catholics who join the PSNI, nationalists who join the PSNI, that they will be killed, threatening the governments and threatening the people of this country, that belongs to the past and that is the past,” said Gilmore.

“They have no mandate. The arrangements in this country have been settled by the Good Friday

Agreement. It has been voted on by the people of this country and nobody has any right to challenge that in the way that these people are doing.

“The Government is absolutely determined that they will not succeed and the gardaí (Irish police) will work with the PSNI in bringing them to justice.”

US congressman Richard Neale, currently in Ireland, commended Gilmore’s pledge.

“My credentials on the North are perhaps unmatched in the United States and there can be no room in a representative democracy for somebody standing with a mask, making threats,” said Neale.

“The idea of a representative democracy is to make sure there are no masks. The Assembly is up and running, there are elections on May 5th and, not to miss the point of just how far we’ve come, part of the distance that we have all travelled has been in putting together a representative democracy, where people are free to use the crucible of politics to make a point and then to accept negotiation.”

“There is no room in the democracy that is in place for this sort of activity.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has described the dissident groups as ‘deluded criminals’.

“These deluded criminals fail to comprehend the true meaning of republicanism and quite clearly have nothing but contempt for this country and its people,” said Martin.

“We must continue to send out a strong and clear message that the PSNI, in close co-operation with the gardaí (Irish police), is a force for good on this island.”