Published Friday, 25 May 2012
Martin McGuiness was speaking at the 2012 Ard Fheis in Killarney. (© UTV)
The deputy First Minister confirmed, at the party's Ard Fheis in Killarney, that a process of "national reconciliation and reconstruction has commenced".
"It is my firm view that a foundation is being built slowly and steadily upon which we will as a community jointly move forward," he explained.
Mr McGuiness added that a "very significant group of people" that had been part of the talks, which he revealed had taken place over the past number of weeks, had told him they believe the initiative to be a "genuine invitation to engage in dialogue".
Those at the Ard Fheis were told that republicans must reach out to unionists in order to address the past.
Mr McGuiness called for further support "to deepen and expand my role to help lead the process of national reconciliation in Ireland".
In recent months senior party members under the direction of the party Chairperson Declan Kearney have been involved in initial discussions with a range of civic unionism and Protestant churches.
During his Easter speech last month Declan Kearney said republicans and unionists should become "partners in reconciliation", adding that there must be "new conversations between republicans and the unionist and Protestant community".
On Friday, he reiterated that call.
"Unionist leaders have an important contribution to make. Conversations such as these, no matter how uncomfortable, are key to reconciliation. Visionary leadership is required from all parties," said Mr Kearney.
Party leader Gerry Adams also addressed the crowd at the Ard Fheis as it began on Friday. he intends to lead Sinn Féin into the next Irish general election, which is expected to be held in two years
In the 2011 election, 14 of the party's candidates were elected to the Dáil - a significant increase from the four seats won in the previous election.
Mr Adams will make a keynote address to party members on Saturday, when it is understood he will speak against the May 31 referendum on Europe's fiscal treaty, which the party claims could drive Ireland further into recession. Sinn Féin is urging its voters to oppose the treaty, despite fears that financial aid to Ireland may be cut if it is rejected.
It is expected that around 1,500 people will attend the annual conference which began on Friday in Co Kerry.
© UTV News