The former SDLP deputy leader, Seamus Mallon, has made a scathing attack on Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists.
Seamus Mallon is the SDLP's outgoing MP for Newry and Armagh
He accused them of manipulating voters and appealed to idealists in the community to shore up the middle ground.
Mr Mallon attacked the DUP for what he called their "half-truths and sectarian flag waving".
And he said he was tired of waiting for the complete peace promised by Sinn Fein 17 years ago.
Mr Mallon, the SDLP's outgoing MP for Newry and Armagh, dismissed Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams' recent call to the IRA to stand aside as a "quasi-gimmick" and accused republicans of "Stalinist tactics".
He said he had waited years from Sinn Fein's first promise of peace to his party in 1988.
"In 1994 the ceasefire. Remember it? The vision? The idealism that we all thought was going to come? Ah, broken legs, kneecaps blown off, fellows getting their throats cut," he said.
"Young fellas being held to ransom every day of the week.
"Decommissioning - the year 2000. It was going to be great. Two years after the executive was set up. Is it done yet? Is it started yet?
"It's this manipulation of people that probably I find the most offensive thing in the type of approach to the political process now.
"You know if we saw it happening elsewhere we would be screaming. If we saw it happening elsewhere we would be going in delegations to look at, investigate it and see what was going wrong."
Referring to the DUP, Mr Mallon said he was dismayed at the rise of the party.
"Those who led people to the top of hills waving gun licences, invaded Clontibret, were at the heart of Harryville, Drumcree and every sectarian confrontation might well now be the largest party in Northern Ireland, might well be holding the most senior positions in Northern Ireland along with those who have played with peace since 1988."
Sinn Fein dismissal
Sinn Fein's candidate in Foyle, Mitchel McLaughlin, has dismissed Mr Mallon's comments and defended his party leader.
Sinn Fein Foyle candidate Mitchel McLaughlin
"The peace process is in terminal decline. There is a need for bold and decisive action to rescue it.
"When others could only resort to negative politics and inaction, Gerry Adams took a courageous initiative to put the peace process back on track," he said.
"We now have an unprecedented opportunity to make progress, to finally and conclusively deal with the outstanding issues and to see the Good Friday Agreement realised in full.
"But instead of supporting such decisive action or putting forward other proposals, the outgoing MP falls back on the easy option and engages in negative politics."
Meanwhile an Ulster Unionist spokesman has applauded Seamus Mallon's remarks.
He echoed the SDLP politicians's call for support for "the middle ground parties to prevent the extremes from carving up Northern Ireland for their own sectarian ends."
He said: "The DUP in this election have proved they are the party of the past and only want power and self-aggrandisement."