The lives of Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly are under threat from hardline republicans, the party has confirmed.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that a small number of disaffected former IRA people and elements of various dissident groups, including some members of the INLA, had come together, and that there was an “active threat” to senior members of the Sinn Féin leadership.
The reports have been backed by the 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who said the three Sinn Féin leaders had been under threat for some time.
Mr Adams said he and his colleagues were taking extra precautions after the fears were raised, but that he was “not losing sleep” over the threat.
Tension is growing in the North over demands by Ian Paisley’s DUP that Sinn Féin declare their support for the PSNI police (formerly RUC) in the run-up to the November 24 political deadline for the nomination of Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.
There is little support among republicans for the move to back a long-despised British police force. Hardliners view even the Sinn Féin leadership’s consideration of the move in the course of the peace process as evidence of treachery.
Mr Adams did not describe the nature of the threat, but said he had to take decisions which “are in the interests of everyone in the long-term”.
“I never discuss my personal security. We work in a dangerous environment, especially when we are trying to bring about change. Change is difficult. It is traumatic.
“I live in the real world, but I do not lose any sleep over this sort of thing. We have to do what we have to do. I am not blase about this.
“I am not trying to do anything other than be part of a collective effort to empower people, to inform people and in a leaderly way take decisions which may or may not be in my best interest or in the short-term interest of Sinn Féin, but are in the interests of everyone in the long-term.”
He warned that “reactionary elements” might seek to “exploit genuine concerns”.
“I am calling on people to ensure they are not being manipulated.
“I uphold people’s right to express opinions on issues and encourage frank, open comradely debate on any matter. However, the Sinn Féin leadership is not going to be deflected from what we think is the right thing to do for the republican struggle.
“We are not short-termers. We are long-termers. We think strategically. We think about the future.”
However, the reports drew a scathing response from the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr, who described the alleged threats as “a pathetic attempt to get public sympathy”.
“The public will have little sympathy for a party that has brought these death threats upon themselves,” the North Antrim Assembly member said.
“The fact is Sinn Féin, despite all their talk, have done nothing to encourage public support for policing hence their present difficulties. Sinn Féin will receive little to no sympathy for their present difficulties.”
* Republican hardliners were believed to have carried out a gun attack on a PSNI station in County Armagh at the weekend.
There were no reports of any injuries in what appeared to be a token attack as the station is not open overnight.
The Continuity IRA had earlier left a landmine on the side of the road near Roslea in County Fermanagh.
A caller using a recognised codeword phoned a local newspaper to say that the main charge failed to detonate and after assessing the situation the bomb was abandoned.
Attacks carried out by dissident group on commerical premises across the north have cost more than 25 million pounds in just seven months, British officials revealed last week.