Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has revealed he has held talks with dissidents to urge them to end terrorism.
Opening his party’s ard fheis in Wexford, the Sinn Fein chief said a debate on a ceasefire has been developing among some factions in recent weeks.
Mr McGuinness, who has made repeated public approaches to dissidents, reiterated his offer to sit down with 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.”
Sinn Fein’s ard fheis opened at the opera house in Wexford. Ahead of the meeting Mr McGuinness also apologised to the family of Garda Seamus Quaid who was shot in October 1980 when he stopped a van carrying IRA explosives at Cleariestown, Co Wexford.
He also used his opening address to urge unionists to support a deal on flags, parades and how to deal with the past in Northern Ireland.
Mr McGuinness also attacked elements in unionism who resist power sharing and were irritated by his relationship with former Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley.
He questioned whether unionist politicians are subject to the whim of the Orange Order, extreme loyalism or mavericks.
“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,” he said.
“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.”