Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process are the enemies of Ireland and are engaged in pointless violence, Martin McGuinness has said.
He hit out at the murder of policemen and offered to meet and talk with violent groups to challenge their continuing attacks.
His comments came after it emerged Sinn Féin is in talks with members of the Protestant community and churches in Northern Ireland to begin a discussion on healing the wounds of decades of violence.
Mr McGuinness addressed delegates at his party’s ard fheis in Co Kerry and told the annual conference of the impact of the dissident murder of PSNI officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr.
He referred to Pc Carroll’s wife Kate, who last week saw two of her husband’s killers jailed for the 2009 murder, and Ronan Kerr’s mother Nuala who spoke out in favour of peace in the wake of her son’s killing in 2011.
Mr McGuinness said: “Those involved in these violent acts don’t believe for one minute that they further the cause of Irish reunification, what’s more they also know the agreements we have negotiated are solid and secure.”
He added: “Nuala Kerr and Kate Carroll, who I have met and respect, are good people who are genuine and sincere supporters of peace and change.
“My message to those who remain committed to violence is that it is not much of an achievement to think that the only thing you have shown the capability to break are two fine women’s hearts. And other families and other mothers have suffered likewise.”
He listed victims of dissident violence, including in his own city of Derry, and branded the attacks “shameful murders carried out by the enemies of the people of Derry and of Ireland”.
“I want to send a message directly to them, I am offering them an opportunity to meet and talk, come and tell us what you hope to gain by deluding yourselves and the gullible that your actions will succeed in what is certainly a pathetic and futile attempt to turn back the clock,” he said.
The former leading IRA figure added: “I was part of the conflict, I was there during the difficult and tragic times we had in the past and let me tell you there was nothing romantic about the war, it was hard, it was painful and it was traumatic and I never ever want the children of Ireland who live today in peace to be subjected to the conflict, pain and hurt that we lived through.
“I never want to be attend another funeral of a police officer or any other member of our society who lost their lives due to violence, so I appeal to you for dialogue but I also say to you that the process of building a new future will continue with or without you – it is your call.”