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'Dissidents plotting to attack me', says O'Neill

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Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and Michelle O’Neill speaking in Belfast

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and Michelle O’Neill speaking in Belfast

PA

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and Michelle O’Neill speaking in Belfast

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill has said she will not be deterred after learning of a dissident plot against her.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister said she had been told by the PSNI that it has received intelligence of a plan by dissident republicans to attack both her and Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly.

It comes a week after Ms O'Neill and Mr Kelly attended a PSNI recruitment event, a move which Chief Constable Simon Byrne hailed as "seismic and historic".

Violence

It was the first time such a senior Sinn Fein figure had attended a recruitment campaign launch for the PSNI and comes amid concern that progress to address under-representation of Catholic officers in the organisation has stalled and is starting to go backwards.

First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the threats against Ms O'Neill and Mr Kelly, saying there is "no place for threats or violence".

Speaking at Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Ms O'Neill said she and Mr Kelly were taking precautions as a consequence, and vowed to protect their families.

"I have been told by the PSNI that they have intelligence that dissident republicans are planning an attack against myself and Gerry Kelly," Ms O'Neill said.

"We have families, I have two children, I have a mother who will be very worried. Gerry has family, who will also be very worried, so we have to protect our families.

"But we have a job to do, we are elected, we have a mandate, we want to bring about change.

"We are trying to build a better society and we will not be deterred by people who do not have a strategy to move forward in terms of the Irish republican project."

Police told them about the threat yesterday.

It also comes after a weekend of significant gains for Sinn Fein in the general election.

"We are also aware this comes on the back of both myself and Gerry attending the PSNI recruitment fair last week," Ms O'Neill said.

"So let me be very clear, dissident republicans have no strategy, they have no plan, they have no progress toward Irish unity and I think this intelligence comes at a time when we have never been closer to Irish unity.

"I will not be deterred. Gerry Kelly will not be deterred. Sinn Fein will not be deterred from trying to build a better society."

Ms Foster said: "We live in a democracy. The ballot box is how we effect change, not through the bomb or bullet."