Northern Ireland

Fr Michael Canny offers to meet Real IRA members

Dissident republican group, the Real IRA, stage a rally in Londonderry Image copyright bbc
Image caption The Real IRA staged a rally in the City Cemetery in Derry on Monday

A Londonderry priest has offered to meet members of the Real IRA, after the dissident group threatened to kill more police officers.

The threat was made in a statement by a masked man at a 32 County Sovereignty Movement rally in the city on Monday.

Fr Michael Canny said that despite his offer to talk he believed dissidents were interested only in pursuing their goals through violence.

"That is what the agenda is and there is no room for manoeuvre," he said.

He added: "I would be prepared to meet anybody and talk to anybody, but I have a feeling that these people have set their sights on one course and that is trying to unite Ireland by force.

"I am saying that it cannot be done by force, that it can only be done by convincing people and through the democratic process."

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement organised the rally to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

It is regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation which claimed responsibility for the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people and unborn twins in 1998.

It also killed two soldiers in Antrim two years ago and exploded a car bomb in Derry last year.

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 the Queen's impending visit to Ireland.

"The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and is not wanted on Irish soil," the statement added.

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