The homes of prominent Sinn Fein figures Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey have been attacked with explosive devices.
The Irish Republican party condemned the “reprehensible and cowardly” attacks in Belfast on Friday night – with former leader Adams saying no-one was hurt.
Adam’s grandchildren were reportedly in the driveway minutes before the incident.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein’s Policing and Justice spokesman, said two devices were thrown, one of which caused damage to a car.
Significant damage was visible to a vehicle on Adams’ driveway in the aftermath of the attack and a blast mark could be seen on the windscreen.
A heavy security presence was outside the home of Storey, with a number of police Land Rovers and armed officers standing guard.
Kelly, the north Belfast MLA, said: “These were reprehensible and cowardly attacks on the family homes of Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey.
“Grandchildren were in the driveway of Adams’ home minutes before the attack.
“I would appeal for calm. These attacks are the desperate acts of increasingly desperate and irrelevant groups.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said officers were “dealing with two incidents at two separate addresses in west Belfast”.
While police have not yet attributed responsibility, the attacks are likely the work of dissident republicans with a new grouping called the “New IRA” widely believed to be responsible.
The “New IRA” – made up of a rag-tag of extremists from splinter groups including the INLA, Continuity IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – are against Sinn Fein’s involvement in the peace process and are engaged in localised turf wars in republican strongholds in an effort to wrestle support away from the mainstream movement.
Sinn Fein dismiss the dissidents as unrepresentative gangs with no political strategy that use the cloak of republicanism to engage in criminality.
Friday’s attacks in west Belfast came after six successive nights of dissident-orchestrated violence in the republican Bogside neighbourhood of Londonderry.
Sinn Fein leaders, including current president Mary Lou McDonald, were scathing in the criticism of the extremists behind the rioting and attacks on police in Derry.
Adams led Sinn Fein from 1983 until February 2018, while Storey has served as the party’s northern chairman.
Following the incidents, the leader of the Alliance party Naomi Long said the attacks “Must be condemned without equivocation”.
She said: “This week we have seen those who remain wedded to violence bring chaos and fear onto our streets, in scenes which we had all hoped we would never witness again.
“These latest attacks on the homes of Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey are a deliberate and calculated attempt to cause fear and raise tensions in our community.
“We have all worked too hard and come too far to see the peace we have enjoyed put at risk by those who offer nothing to this society but destruction.”
Who is Gerry Adams
One of the longest serving political leaders in the world – and one of the most controversial – former Sinn Fein head Gerry Adams remains a prominent public figure in Northern Ireland.
For 34 years he led Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland’s second largest political party.
His legacy is highly divisive, hailed peacemaker by some, denounced as a terrorist by others.
He has been accused of being a senior IRA member during the Troubles, something he has always strenuously denied.
In later years he became known across the globe as the face of the republican movement during its shift from violence to peace.
Born in Ballymurphy in West Belfast in October 1948, Adams became an active republican while still a teenager.
He was interned – imprisoned without charge – in 1972. During his internment he took part in ceasefire talks with the British government on behalf of the IRA.
The talks failed and were followed by a series of IRA bombings across Belfast in one day – known as Bloody Friday – killing nine people and injuring 130.
In 1983 he was elected MP for West Belfast and Sinn Fein President.
The then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher banned his voice from the airwaves but he remained in the news.
He survived a murder attempt by loyalist paramilitaries in 1984 and another in 1988.
Adams went on to lead Sinn Fein to the negotiating table at Stormont, persuaded the IRA to call a ceasefire and pursued a political settlement in the form of the Good Friday Agreement which led to the Stormont coalition in October 2006.
In January 2011 Adams resigned as West Belfast MP to run for election in the Republic of Ireland and was elected as a member of the Irish Parliament.
Following the collapse of powersharing at Stormont in January 2017, he was actively involved in negotiations aimed at restoring the Northern Ireland Executive.
The changing of the guard came in February, with Mary Lou McDonald taking over as leader of the party.