A Derry priest says he remains optimistic that talks with the Real IRA can still go ahead despite the dissident group rejecting his offer.
Father Michael Canny, spokesman for Bishop Seamus Hegarty, made his offer following a statement by the Real IRA at an Easter commemoration event in Derry in which the group said it would intensify its campaign of violence against PSNI officers.
Last week, a dissident republican source said they would not meet with Fr Canny “at this time” because the paramilitary group believed there would not be any merit in such talks.
However, Fr Canny says that, despite the rejection of his offer, he remains optimistic and hopeful that discussions can take place.
“I feel that I have been somewhat knocked back by this rejection but today is another day,” he said.
“Really, the stakes here are very high, we are talking about matters of life and death.
“I do take some comfort from their statement which was not totally negative, because it stated they would not meet with me ‘at this time’.
“They have not ruled it out as a total non-runner.
“The phrase ‘not at this time’ has given me some confidence that talks may take place.
“This phrase was correctly used by them and I am confident that, through me or other channels, they will come to the table.
“I am an optimistic person by nature and I take comfort in the fact that their statement of initial rejection is not totally negative.
“I am sure they worded their statement in a deliberate way, and because of that I am not totally disappointed, in fact I am hopeful.”
In a statement read out at the City Cemetery in Derry, the Real IRA said police officers would be targeted “regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation”.
The organisation also expressed its opposition to Queen Elizabeth II’s impending visit to Ireland.
“The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and is not wanted on Irish soil,” the Real IRA statement added.