Northern Ireland news

Prominent dissident Dee Fennell would 'relish' public debate with Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called on dissident groups to engage in dialogue. Picture by Hugh Russell

A PROMINENT dissident republican has responded to Gerry Adams's call for dialogue by insisting he's happy to debate publicly with the Sinn Féin leader.

Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) spokesman Dee Fennell has said he would "relish the opportunity" for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Adams.

The response came amid growing tensions between the two republican factions with the Sinn Féin leader calling for dissidents to end their "war" with the community in west Belfast.

The Sinn Féin leader highlighted a number of recent incidents and threats against nationalists which he likened to "soccer hooliganism". However, he said dissidents were also responsible more serious attacks across the north, including killing and injuring police and prison officers.

In recent weeks tensions in west Belfast were heightened after organisers of Féile an Phobail were subjected to what Sinn Féin characterised as "veiled threats".

Leaflets voicing concern about PSNI participation in festival events were circulated in the Beechmount area by the IRPWA.

The Féile office on the Falls Road was subsequently picketed and later fly posted with the same leaflets criticising the PSNI.

Sinn Féin has linked those responsible for the picket to a number of anti-internment bonfires in west and north Belfast and Derry. The party said the bonfires had involved "anti-social behaviour, street drinking and drug taking, criminal damage, street fights involving knives and hammers and car thefts".

"In Derry and in the New Lodge pipe bombs were thrown, which led to elderly people and children being evacuated from their homes," Sinn Féin said.

Video:

Gerry Adams appeals for dissident republicans to stop the "war" they are waging on the west Belfast community

Mr Adams said the same groups had "sought to promote confrontation at interfaces and on the issue of marching".

"It now appears they are also seeking to heighten confrontation with the community," he said.

He said his party had consistently called on the various groups responsible, which included people involved in criminality, to stop their actions and enter into dialogue.

"These groups are entitled to oppose Sinn Féin, however their campaign against the community must end," the former West Belfast MP said.

"I would appeal to those involved to end their futile violent campaign, which is going nowhere. It causes hardship and loss for families, including prisoners’ families."

The Sinn Féin leader said he was willing to meet representatives from the various groups.

"If these groups had any integrity they would enter into dialogue with us," he said.

Mr Fennell, who is currently on bail facing three charges including inviting support for a proscribed organisation, said he was "more than willing to have a public debate at a time and place of his choosing".

"Mr Adams makes unsubstantiated allegations regarding threats of intimidation and criminality that he alleges are perpetrated by republicans," he said.

"If Mr Adams has any evidence why has he not brought it to the PSNI when he continually asks ordinary citizens to do the same."

The IRPWA spokesman said the Louth TD needed to "put up or shut up" and produce evidence of republican involvement in criminality.

"The real criminality that goes on within working class communities is the establishment of phantom community groups to supposedly benefit working class communities but in reality all the statistics demonstrate that in terms of social deprivation working class communities in Belfast continue to endure the highest rates of unemployment, deprivation and child poverty in Europe," he said.

"I for one would relish the opportunity to discuss these issues and more in a public arena."

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