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SF spooked by dissident 'plot' to kill McGuinness

A DISSIDENT republican threat to kill Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness sparked serious alarm within Sinn Fein, leaked diplomatic cables reveal.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told a senior US diplomat he was "particularly concerned" about the threat against Mr McGuinness in April 2009.

The threat was issued weeks after Mr McGuinness had branded dissidents as "traitors" following the murder of two soldiers at Massereene barracks.

While he vowed not to be deterred by the threat, the document reveals the unease it sparked behind the scenes.

According to a cable dated May 1, 2009, Mr Adams claimed attacks against Sinn Fein had increased, and were being taken "very seriously".

The cable is classified 'CONFIDENTIAL/NO FORN', indicating it is not to be viewed by non-US citizens. It is based on a meeting between Mr Adams and the US consul general in Belfast, Susan Elliott.

Reporting back to Washington, Ms Elliott noted the Sinn Fein president's worries about increased dissident activity.

"He was particularly concerned about a recent threat against the life of Martin McGuinness," she noted.

During their meeting, Mr Adams also raised concerns about attacks on party offices and homes of senior members, including Mitchell McLaughlin.

He claimed some republicans were having difficulty accepting the republican movement had "entered a new phase" after Sinn Fein denounced the Massereene killings.

The cable adds: "Adams warned that the lack of political progress on issues such as Irish language and education reform was angering the republican grassroots and could lead to more support for dissident activity."

Republican leaders were scathing in their criticism of dissidents after the Massereene attack. Mr McGuinness -- a former IRA army council leader -- branded them "traitors to the island of Ireland".

Following the threat, he publicly vowed not to be deterred.

"What we have to do is continue to move forward," Mr McGuinness insisted. "I am not going to be intimidated."