Northern Ireland’s politicians and community groups have condemned attempts to derail the peace process following days of street violence and an attack on the home of former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Explosive devices were thrown at the Belfast home of Mr Adams last on Friday night, causing damage to a car in his driveway, just feet from where his young grandchildren had been standing moments earlier.
At the same time another device was thrown at the home of prominent Sinn Fein leader Bobby Storey by suspected dissident republicans.
Mr Storey was involved in the Maze Prison escape in 1983, where 38 IRA prisoners escaped from the maximum security prison.
Police described the devices used as being “large industrial fireworks capable of causing serious damage or injury”.
Mr Adams, who led Sinn Fein from 1983 until February 2018 and helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which led the the IRA laying down its arms, yesterday [SAT] condemned the attacks and invited those behind the attacks to talk to him.
He said “I’m very, very thankful that no one was hurt. In our case two of our grandchildren were just in our driveway 10 minutes before the attack. Had a child or indeed anyone else been caught up in that blast… the fact is it would have injured or perhaps would have killed a child."
"I’d like them or their representatives to come and meet me. I’d like them to sit down and explain to me what this is about.
"I’d like those who are involved in exploiting children in Derry to do the same thing, or those who are poisoning the atmosphere in east Belfast and causing havoc to do the same thing."
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein’s Policing and Justice spokesman, appealed for calm and described the attacks as “the desperate acts of increasingly desperate and irrelevant groups”.
The attacks on Mr Storey and Mr Adams, blamed by Sinn Fein on dissident Republican groups who have long objected to the party’s support for the peace process, followed six nights of rioting in Derry which saw dozens of petrol bombs and two improvised explosive devices thrown at PSNI police officers.
The violence is thought to have been orchestrated by the same republican groups who oppose Sinn Fein’s commitment to the peace process.
It comes at a sensitive time for Northern Ireland, following the collapse of power sharing between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein at Stormont last year and the repeated failure to restore devolved government.
In response activists and ordinary residents from across the nationalist community gathered on Friday evening in protest at the violence.
Hundreds gathered in the Fahan Street area of Derry to condemn what they described as dissident republicans exploiting vulnerable teenagers in the area.
Those attendingincluded Donal McKeow, bishop of Derry; John Boyle, the city’s mayor; Colum Eastwood, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP); and the veteran civil rights activist Eamonn McCann.
Following the attacks, Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance party, said: "This week we have seen those who remain wedded to violence bring chaos and fear onto our streets, in scenes which we had all hoped we would never witness again.
"These latest attacks on the homes of Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey are a deliberate and calculated attempt to cause fear and raise tensions in our community.
"We have all worked too hard and come too far to see the peace we have enjoyed put at risk by those who offer nothing to this society but destruction."
Mr Eastwood said: "It is important, at moments like this, that we all stand together against those who want to drag us back to the past. They should be left in no doubt, it will not work."
The PSNI has said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that nobody had been killed over the past week.
Chief Constable George Hamilton said on Thursday: “This was the sixth consecutive night of reckless violence, violence that I am confident is being orchestrated by dissident republicans, with the New IRA being the primary grouping responsible.”