An assassination plot against Gerry Adams by republican hardliners was defeated by security arrangements taken by the Sinn Féin president and his security advisers, Mr Adams has said.

The PSNI informed Mr Adams that dissidents planned to shoot him but that they called off their attack because of security measures he had taken, Mr Adams said at the Belfast Assembly on Monday.

The PSNI told him that dissidents had a plan “to kill me by shooting”, but that they abandoned it because of the security arrangements he had in place.

This is the fourth time in recent weeks that the media have been told about a threat to Sinn Féin leaders from hardline republicans. There have been allegations of death threats against Mr Adams, the party’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, and policing and justice spokesman Gerry Kelly.

Hardline republicans have reacted with scepticism to the reports.

“The fact that there are so many of these reports coming I do believe there is a very active threat to leading Sinn Féin members. We have to take it seriously,” said Mr Adams.

Former disaffected members of the Provisional IRA and/or members of breakaway groups such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA are behind the threats, Sinn Féin has said.

Mr Adams said there were “elements” who were using the current negotiations aimed at persuading Sinn Féin to support the PSNI as an excuse for the threats.

“Clearly there are elements who are opposed to Sinn Féin’s peace strategy. They have consistently opposed that strategy for a very long time. The issue of policing is an excuse,” he added.

“It is being used and exploited by them. It is clearly an important issue but it is being manipulated as part of the wider hostility to Sinn Féin’s peace strategy and we are not going to be deflected and, of course, we are dealing with the policing issue as I have outlined publicly on a number of occasions,” added Mr Adams.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly also spoke this week of a fresh death threat he has received through the PSNI.

The police message told him: “Dissident republicans are planning to carry out some form of unspecified attack against Gerry Kelly from Sinn Féin in the near future.

“You are advised to seek advice on and take steps to protect your personal security.”

Mr Kelly said he did not know the source of the threat, but he and his family had to take the threat seriously.

“They have joined a long queue of unionist paramilitaries who want to do Sinn Féin and members of it damage,” he said.

“It is not going to distract me but it is worrying for my family.”

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain condemned the threats. “Violence or the threat of terror will not deflect us from getting local government back in Northern Ireland,” he said in Derry on Monday.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News