We discussed the future of the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA with Danny Morrison, former director of Publicity for Sinn Fein and Niall Stanage, Associate Editor of the Irish Echo newspaper.
The Northern Ireland secretary has said that the peace process will be put on hold until the issue of IRA criminality has been tackled.
Paul Murphy's warning came a day after the family of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney met US President Bush at the White House.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that until IRA criminal activity had been addressed there "wasn't any hope at all" of progress towards restoring devolved government in Belfast.
The McCartney family said their visit to the US was aimed at dispelling any "romantic vision" that Americans may have of the IRA's struggle.
How much damage has been done to the Irish Republican movement and its relationship with Irish America? What do you think is the future for Sinn Fein, the IRA and the Northern Ireland peace process?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Damage to the peace process? How can you damage something that is already broken?
Christopher William Whybrow, Baguio City, Philippines
Yes, a media storm has blown up but when it subsides all will be forgotten. What is perhaps more worrying is the increasing threat of terrorist attack on the mainland. Perhaps Blair will regret his duplicitous deals with Adams and McGuiness.
D. Walmsley, Melrose, Scotland
As a teenager who has grown up near the end of the troubles, I can see compared to the way things were, everyone has come a long way together. I do believe later in my life time and for Ireland's best interests British Rule will finally leave Ireland after a fair referendum which I'm more than willing to wait for, as should everyone else.
John, Bangor, County Down, Ireland
The McCartney family are to be admired. America needs to be reminded that the IRA is part of a large international terrorist group. Having grown up in Northern Ireland I was appalled when the likes of Gerry Adams was invited to the White House and on more than one occasion. Can you imagine them inviting Osama bin Laden?
Elizabeth Heywood, Mount Pleasant , SC USA
No progress can be made until the IRA disbands entirely. A private army existing in a western country? Post 911? Nonsense!
Mark, Arizona, USA
I live in America, and there has been no news coverage of the McCartney's what so ever. It's sad but I doubt 70% of Americans know that there is a Northern Ireland. The only media coverage of this event has come from the BBC on a cable pay channel. Frankly, most Americans don't really understand or care about the Northern Ireland issue. Leave it to the British government; the notion of Irish romanticism in America is very little. Most Americans support Britain over Ireland.
Mike T, New York City, USA
People should stop blaming "Irish-Americans" for their funding of the IRA. In the UK there are many people of Irish descent (I am one of them) who sympathise with the republican cause but do not support terrorism. The Irish-Americans are often 3rd or 4th generation and quite far removed from the reality having never lived with the threat of terrorism (until 9/11). Many believe the romanticised view of freedom fighters; they need to be educated to se that it is terrorism plain and simple. I would never give money to the IRA although I support the republican cause, as I would not expect a Muslim to give money to Al-Qaeda.
Louise, London, UK
If only the families of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson were allowed the "unprecedented" amount of news and media coverage the sisters have enjoyed. It seems a little prejudiced and cynical for me.
Chris, Glasgow Scotland
Every one is criminalising the IRA, what about the so called Loyalists, is any one interested in their criminal activity in Northern Ireland?
Con Lenihan, Sunbury, Australia
As someone who is politically sympathetic to Sinn Fein's cause, but cannot agree with the IRA's use of violence, these are extremely interesting times. America is involved because Irish-Americans have traditionally been big financial supporters of the republican movement in Ireland, including the IRA. Perhaps this will bring back some reality to the debate on terrorism vs freedom fighting. These things are never black and white, whether in NI or elsewhere. Armed conflict may be the wrong way to go about achieving your aims, but it rarely comes from nothing. Legitimate complaints (such as those of the NI Catholics in the 70's) must be dealt with or violence will quite frequently follow.
Katherine, London, UK
Maybe those Americans who condone the IRA's "struggle" feel we should start sending money to Native Americans so that they too can rid themselves of their occupiers by planting bombs in supermarkets.
Douglas, Milton Keynes, UK
Sinn Fein's only legitimate objective should now be to help bring the killers to justice and abandon the IRA.
Kim Hjorth, Copenhagen, Denmark
The IRA's fight is basically that against occupation, and as such I find the parallels between them and the Iraqi insurgents intriguing. In some US eyes there seems to be a perception of romanticised 'good terrorism' of the IRA and 'bad terrorism' of Al Qaeda and their ilk. I think progress will be made if people collectively come to the conclusion that there is only ever one brand of terrorism.
James Porritt, Redhill, UK
Regardless of your creed, your religion, or your politics, to defend the IRA is to defend the politics of terror and you are being hoodwinked.
I think the McCartney family are extremely brave to take on the IRA and Sinn Fein. I hope their brother's killers are brought to justice. It's about time someone stood up to the facilitators of terror. If only more people could stand up to the bullies in their communities, perhaps this world will be a better place.
Claire Cobb, East Dulwich London
IRA is clearly a terrorist organisation, that's for sure. However, people seem to forget that Loyalist Paramilitaries and the British Governments that kept a closed eye on these groups were not angels either.
Mustafa Yorumcu, Turkey
How can we condemn the IRA when loyalist paramilitaries attack and kill Irish Catholics? Anyone remember Holy Cross and school girls being attacked by loyalist men? The IRA will go away when Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland are free from attacks by loyalists.
Trae Murphy, Atlanta, GA
It is time for Sinn Fein to make a choice. Gerry Adams said in an interview in the US that it was not helpful to call for the end of the IRA, why not. The 'war is over'. Does Sinn Fein stand for a democratic Ireland or is a public relations front for a bunch of criminals and killers who are only interested in their own ends? Sinn Fein and the IRA should hand over the killers of Mr McCartney. If they do not the whole world will see that they are not interested in peace only power for themselves and should be dealt with accordingly.
Chris Parker, Bucks
As someone who left N Ireland over 32 years ago and who has lost a sister and grandfather in a terrorist incident I'm amazed (but not quite) at the ballyhoo about Mr McCartney's death, especially by Mr Bush and Mr Ahern. A few years back a very courageous journalist, Martin O'Hagan was slain by "Loyalists" and two teenage Protestant boys were also slain by "Loyalists". The silence by Politicians was deafening and still is.
Britain never learns, the more you demonise Sinn Fein the greater will be their support at the next election. The loss of Mr McCartney is deeply sad and the people who committed the atrocity should be brought to trial, but I do believe that his family have allowed themselves to become pawns in a game that they are unprepared for. They are genuine people on a genuine cause but I'm sure that the same cannot be said for the fawning politicians who are ever ready for opportunistic photo shoots.
Harry C, Italy
It seems as if the IRA has devolved from proud resistance fighters to an unorganised, intimidating street gang; the founders of the republican movement would not be proud. That said, one should not forget that loyalist force still exists and discrediting Sinn Fein may threaten the peace process. The story is never as one-sided as it may seem now.
Donncha Clair, Miami, FL, USA
For the life of me I can't understand why the death of this poor man is any different from all the deaths that have gone before. Why should the Americans change their minds over their support for the IRA because of it? Why is it more important than all the other deaths that have gone before? How many other victim's families been invited to White House, either Protestant or Catholic?
I am appalled at some of the attitudes expressed so far, from making out that the IRA are in an 'armed struggle' to them being the defenders of the Catholic community. Oh for Heavens Sake you people, open your eyes!
The IRA for the past forty years at least have been nothing less than a gang of thugs, hitching their pitch at the struggles of old.
I was a Left revolutionary back in the Eighties, and prepared to back the IRA morally - then learned what they really were.
How wonderful that the McCartney sisters and fiancÚ have Mr Bush's sympathy. Now maybe the way is open for the sisters of the thousands of murdered Iraqi men and soldiers to meet this champion of freedom and anti terrorism and get his support and to 'catch the interest' of 'the American People'. Or would that be like the McCartneys asking for sympathy from the IRA?
Rabia, Stamford, Lincolnshire
My young son was murdered by the IRA 1982 - he was an army Bandsman. He too left young sons. They too wondered why Dad wasn't around to see them grow up! I admire the McCartneys in standing up to the cowardly IRA but do wonder where their loyalties lay 23 years ago when I lost my son. My life has been totally ruined. I have paid the price of my son's death. All my son wanted to do was play music in an army band. I would ask everyone to remember the many young soldiers who have lost their lives to the IRA thugs. My son was not allowed a full military funeral because the British Government did not recognise the struggle with the IRA as war.
Mrs. P. M. Powell, Rotherham, England
We are now waiting for G.W. Bush to include IRA into his Axe of Evil and for Ms Rice to put together a Coalition to invade Northern Ireland and restore freedom and democracy ...
Uberto Orlando, London, UK
What seems to be misunderstood is that the reaction against the murder of Robert McCartney and the subsequent pressure on Sinn Fein/IRA couldn't have happened at any other point in the last 30 years... The events of 9/11, the US' tough stance on terrorism, the IRA ceasefire and Belfast Agreement, without any of these (and other) factors the McCartney's protests would fall on deaf ears like so many before them... Unpopular as it is to admit it Unionist's have made similar observations on paramilitary activity for years, but due to the nature of their politics the world has refused to listen... it's a shame that another life had to be lost before the world sat up and took notice.
Andrew, Banbridge, Co Down
Terrorism in NI is an American problem? Why not? "Terrorism" in Iraq and Afghanistan became Britain's problem when George wanted a whipping boy to lend legitimacy to the war.
Americans have been feeding terrorism in NI for years and now should take responsibility for the many crimes they helped commit and perpetuate.
Daren, College Station, TX, USA
These courageous women have suffered an irreplaceable loss at such a time that they and Robert can change the daily reality of life in Belfast for everybody. I mourn for their loss and the whole world wants an optimistic outcome - surely the dregs of the IRA left who have not followed Gerry Adams by now must now be left behind ... please?
Stephen Harvey, Auckland, New Zealand
Any murder is horrible, but you cannot taint the whole Republican cause from the actions of a few.
William Arnold, Florida, USA
The reason why the IRA has not disbanded because the Good Friday agreement and the Patten report has not been fully implemented. Nationalists don't trust the PSNI. The past actions of the RUC have not been addressed. With everybody jumping all over the IRA now the likelihood of them disbanding now is highly unlikely as it would mean humiliation .
Bobby McBride, Bowmanville Canada
I think it is a brave stand to take and I think that it will keep the issues in the fore front of the public's mind. It's time the world woke up to the reality of the situation at hand, and stopped living in a romantic fairyland.
Tom, Oita, Japan
If it wasn't for 911 the US president or population wouldn't care one way or the other. Simply they have experienced terrorism first hand and now know what it's like.
Steve Hoare, Wrexham
I understand why Irish Americans are passionate about this case and why any human being would care, for that matter. But I don't understand why the US government has an official voice in the conflict, and why Bush's personal praise of the McCartney sisters has any impact on anything at all.
Karie, New York City
The IRA has wrought more terror on the UK than al-Qaeda has, yet we still entertain their 'political wing' as being democratic? If Ireland wants to remain democratic then now is the time to elect a fresh representation.
This is not an American issue! I'm not at all surprised that all these out-of-touch liberal senators will ignore the demands of their constituencies to solve foreign disputes that are not America's problem. If these American senators showed as much compassion for the crime victims in the inner cities of America as they do for the McCartney sisters, maybe there'll be reduction in crime. Senators, get back to work!
Ife Ebenuwa, Urbana, Illinois, USA
How ironic that America, who has turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the IRA and Sinn Fein for the last 30 years, should choose this unprecedented time of peace and reconciliation to voice its outrage
AMD, New York, USA
As an American with an Irish last name who has never met anyone who has given a penny to the IRA, I think the McCartneys should have stayed home. The notion that Americans are keeping the IRA afloat is a xenophobic myth. We don't need to be demonized and lectured to by delusional people who want to blame their problems on people living thousands of miles away. If their goal is to put an end to the IRA, they should have stayed home and talked to their neighbours. Perhaps the troubles in Northern Ireland have lasted as long as they have because citizens of the UK refuse to admit it's their problem, not ours.
Jim S, USA
Many persons of Irish heritage still hold the IRA dear, especially in the Irish neighbourhoods of New York City. This is a truly sad thing. Plain and simple if there ever to be a peace in Northern Ireland there must be no terrorist groups representing either side. The IRA is a terror group plain and simple. Lets see fit for clearer heads to prevail.
Patrick Daly, Brooklyn, USA
We should remember here that not all Catholics in N Ireland are raving republicans, we just wanted to be treated like proper UK citizens, given the same rights and not to be bullied and intimidated by the Protestant community, that's why the IRA came into being in NI and that's why it won't go away.
Don, N Ireland
Is Don from N Ireland suggesting that it is OK for Catholics in N Ireland to be "bullied and intimidated" by the IRA?
J, Huddersfield, UK
Many of the postings here vent anger and frustration at the IRA without a mention of the 300+ years of occupation by a foreign power. Their "indignation" is superficial. When the "Marching Season" begins this year, there will be a resurgence of IRA support because the IRA is only a symptom, not the problem. The problem is a lack of justice and true freedom for the native people. Solve the "real" problems and the symptoms will disappear. If Sinn Fein is marginalized then I can assure you that the IRA will flourish as the only remaining outlet for a frustrated people. Is that what you want?
Michael, USA There is no foreign occupation in the North. A majority of the population, including many Catholics, want to be part of the UK. The wishes of the majority must be respected. The British and Irish governments must work together to end Protestant domination of the North and ensure equal rights for Catholics. This is the only way to marginalize and hopefully someday eliminate the IRA and their Protestant counterparts.
Jo, USA (formerly Ireland)
It just fascinates me to see how terrorism in Northern Ireland has become an American problem. Blame the world's woes on America! That's certainly a salve for the consciences of your typically self-indulgent, cowardly contributors that get away with branding George Bush a mass murderer.
Dean Chapman, St Charles, MO, USA
All this outraged hypocritical angst is baffling. How Republicans are going to chuckle when Sinn Fein comes out of the other side of the general election with an increased vote and an increased mandate! Some people who feel the need to contribute to this discussion really need to open their eyes.
Scott Lamb, Edinburgh, Scotland
In the long run I don't think the relationship between Sinn Fein and the Irish-American population will suffer. Both sides are wedded to a romantic notion of an armed struggle and blind to the everyday realities of living with terrorists. In any case the future of the peace process doesn't depend on either America or Sinn Fein. It depends on the people of NI, and this is where the main stumbling block lies.
It seems to me that the traditional Irish Sinn Fein voters will see through this new media storm. The IRA existed before George Bush and the current attempt to isolate them is likely to take the peace process back and violence may well resume soon.
Phil, Bristol, UK
What would really be good to see would be the McCartneys joined by protestant families fed up with paramilitaries bullying their community. That would really smash the mould of Northern Irish politics and have all those veteran extremists out in the cold simultaneously.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK