The dissident republicans responsible for the current campaign of violence have absolutely no interest in obtaining a united Ireland, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said today.
The leader of the mainstream republican movement accused the extremists of ignoring the expressed will of people to achieve political change through peaceful means and challenged them to justify their actions.
The West Belfast MP, who along with party colleagues has received a number of death threats from the renegade groups in recent weeks, demanded to know why their representatives were never prepared to face the public and explain what they were doing.
He said whatever people’s views of Sinn Féin through history, the party was always prepared to step in front of a microphone and make their opinions clear.
“There is a chance and it’s been well chronicled and democratically endorsed to build justice and freedom through perfectly peaceful and democratic ways and that is not served by those who run for cover in the wake of an action like this,” he said.
“Let them come forward if they have any stomach or guts at all and defend what’s going on.”
Mr Adams said republicans and unionists had every right to pursue political goals, but he questioned whether the dissidents had any such guiding principles.
“I want to see a united Ireland,” he said.
“The people involved in these actions have no interest at all in a united Ireland.”
In the wake of the murders of two British soldiers and a policeman in March last year, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness branded the dissidents “traitors to the island of Ireland”.
Commenting at a suicide awareness event on the Falls Road in the heart of his parliamentary constituency, Mr Adams said the factions were made up of so-called ’ceasefire soldiers’ – a label attached to those who only became active in so-called militant republicanism after the Troubles were effectively over.
“I’ve been listening to politicians for all the parties condemning these actions,” he said.
“Where are the spokespersons from the support groups, the people who are attacking Sinn Féin at every turn? Where are they now? When something like this happens they run for cover so I think they should come forward.”
He added: “Whatever one can say for and against Sinn Féin we were always there at the end of a microphone to make our views clear on whatever was happening.
“Where are all the great freedom fighters that will take pot shots at us? And I don’t just mean verbal pot shots, I and colleagues have received – in the last five weeks – as many as six different warnings that our lives are in imminent danger.
“So let them come forward if they want to have a political debate on the merits of these operations as opposed to this sort of ceasefire soldiering that’s going on let them argue the case.”