People using guns and bombs to further their agenda are "living in cloud cuckoo land", Sinn Féin's Martin Mc Guinness has said - as arrests are made over Ronan Kerr's murder and dozens of Catholic homes and businesses are raided by the PSNI.
Mr Mc Guinness contends that those who make up the dissident groupings are traitors and are mainly people who were expelled from the provisional republican movement for criminality including sexual crimes against children.
About 200 PSNI officers and other staff were involved in a series of raids across counties Down, Londonderry and Antrim, as part of investigations into Constable Kerr's killing.
The 25-year-old died after an under-car bomb exploded outside his Omagh home at the start of April.
Three days later, munitions were seized from a house in Coalisland.
Now seven more properties have been searched - in areas including Coalisland, Toome, Bellaghy, and Ballyronan - and five men were arrested on Tuesday under the Terrorism Act.
The men - aged 22, 27, 33, 37 and 46 - are still being held for questioning at Antrim Serious Crime Suite, while forensic investigators are examining clothing, mobiles phones, computers and vehicles which were seized during the searches.
Speaking in the wake of the arrests, and of a pipe bomb attack in his home city, the Deputy First Minister spoke out against what he called "the disgraceful ongoing activities of those people that believe the use of guns and bombs brings solutions to problems".
He declared that such people were "living in cloud cuckoo land" and added: "The sooner these people go away and recognise, not only are they not making a contribution to making life better for our people, they're actually damaging it."
According to Mr McGuinness, dissident activity "is a threat, but shouldn't be overrated".
He said: "All of us involved in the political process know there are people out there in the echelons of the dissidents, who are opposed to and want to damage the peace process.
"We have to continue to support police in their investigations of any of those actions which taken the lives of any of our citizens - including those members of the police service."
Before Tuesday's operation, a total of 33 searches had already been carried out across Northern Ireland, the Republic and Scotland in connection with Constable Kerr's murder.
Three men and a woman were arrested and one was subsequently charged with offences linked to the Coalisland munitions find.
The officer in charge of the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, said: "Today's activities are the latest stage in the ongoing investigation into Ronan's murder and related incidents.
"Our determination to pursue every possible line of enquiry remains undiminished."
While he said that support and assistance from the community had been encouraging, he added: "During this search stage, we would ask for people's continued patience and co-operation as we work to complete our enquiries to maximum effect, as expeditiously as possible and with the minimum amount of disruption to community life."
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