A leading member of the INLA has described claims that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are under a death threat as “bogus”.
The two Sinn Féin leaders had claimed that the threat against them came from disaffected IRA members and elements of the INLA.
Willie Gallagher, a former INLA prisoner who has been in talks with other republican groups, described their claims as “rubbish”. He said: “I believe that someone in Sinn Féin has concocted this to divert people away from the party’s internal problems with the PSNI. It is designed to get the troops to rally round the leadership during this ‘great time of danger’ and stifle political criticism.”
Sinn Féin said said that the two leaders and the party’s policing spokesman, Gerry Kelly, had stepped up their personal security as a result of the threats last week.
Adams said the threat emanated from “a handful of disaffected IRA people” who may have linked up with “members of republican micro groups and some members of the INLA”.
Later McGuinness said the threats had “become more serious, as a debate within Sinn Féin has opened up on the issue of ending political policing”.
Gallagher believes that Adams and McGuinness are referring to a programme of meetings which had involved Real IRA supporters, members of Sinn Féin and members of the IRSP, the political wing of the INLA. He said that a larger and more public meeting was planned to be held before Christmas.
The former INLA prisoner accused the Sinn Féin leaders of trying to “negate and stifle any type of debate by vilifying us as collaborators and assassins so that nobody will have anything to do with us”.
Gallagher added: “I have attended every meeting and there has been no discussion of any kind of military actions or campaign. What we have discussed is the political capitulation of Sinn Féin.
“There is not a chance in the world of the INLA ceasefire being broken. I do not see any role for armed struggle at the present time and we are absolutely opposed to anyone from Sinn Féin being killed.”
Meanwhile, the breakaway Real IRA has said it will continue to target commercial premises in the run-up to Christmas as part of its ongoing armed campaign.
The group admitted responsibility for a number of fire bomb attacks on commercial premises in Belfast and Coleraine that caused millions of pounds worth of damage.
In a statement accompanied by a recognised codeword, the Real IRA claimed it had carried out the attack that destroyed a Homebase store at Shane Retail Park on Belfast’s Boucher Road on November 1.
It also admitted responsibility for an attack on a branch of JJB Sports in Ann Street on the same night, and for for similar attacks on B&Q stores on Boucher Road and in Coleraine.
It said it would continue to target commercial premises in the run-up to Christmas.
Dissidents are also being linked to fires in two buildings in Belfast docks on Thursday night. The former offices of the Six-County Department of Agriculture which were being used for storage by a business appeared to be the target.
A neighbouring office block had to be evacuated during the emergency.
A DIY store in Newry was also evacuated following the discovery of a suspect device. A further suspect device found in north Belfast was also declared a hoax.