Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said dissident republicans “are not the IRA” and are not advancing the cause for Irish unity.
The senior Sinn Féin politician made the comments at an Easter Rising commemoration at Loup in south Derry over the grave of a republican killed by Free State forces during the civil war.
Mr McGuinness said; “The IRA forced the British government to the negotiating table. But the IRA were not war mongerers. They were a revolutionary force who, when an opportunity to advance the struggle for Irish unity through peaceful means was established, removed themselves from the political equation.
“The IRA by its nature was of the people and for the people. It could not have survived and fought the British state the way it did if it was small and unrepresentative. People should be under no illusion - the small factions currently engaging in armed actions are not the IRA and they are not advancing national and democratic objectives by their activities,” he said.
Mr McGuinness also said; “Irish people are united in support of the Good Friday, St. Andrews and Hillsborough agreements. Attempting to overturn the will of the Irish people is not only futile it is stupid and selfish. Ireland can now only be reunited by the further development and outworking of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions which were endorsed by the Irish people in the referendum in 1998. No act of violence will advance the cause of reunification by one millimetre. It is patently not possible to advance towards Irish reunification by any means other than peaceful and democratic processes,” he said.