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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Dissidents 'will not destroy peace'
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness believes dissidents will not succeed
Dissident republican paramilitaries are destined to fail if they believe they can destroy the Northern Ireland peace process, a leading member of Sinn Fein has said.

Martin McGuinness has expressed concern about recent activity by dissident groups amid allegations of Real IRA intelligence gathering at a hospital in west Belfast.

Security sources have claimed the Real IRA was using records at the Royal Victoria Hospital to gather intelligence on members of the Policing Board, district policing partnerships, politicians and police officers.

Mr McGuinness, the Mid Ulster MP, said there were people inside dissident republican groups who "acknowledge privately to themselves that as military forces they are totally and absolutely ineffective".

"But I believe that some of them harbour the notion that involvement in these type of activities can bring about a collapse of the peace process," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme on Saturday.

"And bring about a situation where the IRA will go back to war. I believe that their strategy will fail and will fail miserably."

Royal Victoria Hospital
The Royal is at the centre of spying allegations

His comments come a day after DUP leader Ian Paisley said that more than 300 people had been warned about their security following the allegations about the Royal.

He made the comments after meeting Chief Constable Hugh Orde at police headquarters on Friday.

However, a Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said they would not be commenting on the figure involved.

Referring to the alleged spy operation, Mr Paisley said the numbers of people warned about security was "up to 300 people, and it could be more people who are now put in grave difficulty".

Mr Paisley said it was the latest in a series of security scares and he criticised the police's handling of a protest by republicans at the Prison Service headquarters in Belfast three days ago.

In a statement, the hospital said the alleged breach was "unprecedented and deeply regretted".

More than 500,000 people each year are treated at the Royal Group of Hospitals, with records held for eight years.

The Real IRA is opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The Royal has set up a helpline for concerned patients which is available 0900 - 1700 BST Monday - Friday. The number is 028 90635858.

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