Suspended Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin was caught up in the ongoing media campaign against the party this week when newspapers in the Independent News and Media group claimed that Mr Toibin was intending to defect to Fianna Fail.
The Meath West TD, who has strong pro-life views, was suspended from the Sinn Fein parliamentary party for six months in July after voting against a bill to increase the availability of abortion.
Following an approach by Micheal Martin’s party last week, the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish Independent and related news media claimed that Mr Toibin had decided to defect to Fianna Fail following comments made by Mr Adams in the Dublin parliament.
The claims were strongly denied by Mr Toibin, who described the reports as “fact free”.
It was claimed that Mr Toibin was angered by comments made by Mr Adams in regard to a Provisional IRA attack against senior RUC police chiefs near the border in 1989.
Last week, a tribunal of inquiry under Judge Peter Smithwick controversially claimed that “on the balance of probability” some form of collusion had taken place between an unidentified member of the Gardai and the IRA. Two RUC chiefs, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, died in the attack which has been the focus of unionist allegations of collusion between the IRA and the 26-County Garda police.
Mr Adams drew criticism from Fianna Fail and others after he pointed out that collusion was not necessary as the two executed RUC men, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, had displayed a lax approach to their own security while driving through the heart of IRA-controlled South Armagh.
He describing their approach as “laissez faire”, sparking criticism by rival politicians and media interests.
Mr Toibin rubbished reports that he disagreed with Mr Adams’ view on the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal and said the articles. “My view is that Gerry Adams’s points with regard security are not out of step with the Smithwick report, the analysis of former RUC leaders and the view of other security analysts,” he said.
“I think Gerry was very clear that the responsibility for the deaths of those individuals lies with the people who carried out the killing -- so it lies with the IRA activists.”
Mr Toibin said Mr Adams had his full backing, and that his support had not wavered despite the recent media onslaught against the Sinn Fein leader.
He said it was likely he would rejoin the Sinn Fein benches in mid-January.
The party’s former spokesperson on enterprise and jobs also said the established political parties in the 26 Counties had been attempting to regurgitate controversies from the past conflict to try to arrest the development of Sinn Fein.
Mr Toibin described Fianna Fail as “europhiles” and said the party “didn’t mean business in terms of full Irish independence”.
Separately, Sinn Fein TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn accused Fianna Fail of attempting to criminalise the 1981 hunger strikers in the same way as former British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Speaking during Dail Question Time, the Donegal North East TD criticised Fianna Fail after justice spokesman Niall Collins after he said people had benefited “under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement for crimes they committed”.
Collins had made the remarks when he opposed a proposal by Six County Attorney General John Larkin on the possibility of ending prosecutions of conflict-related cases occurring before the 1998 Agreement.
He said that “to confer a free pass by way of a general amnesty is not a runner”.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said “ten men died on hunger strike in order that they could not be labelled as criminals”. He pointed out that Bobby Sands had been elected an MP and fellow hunger-striker Kieran Doherty a TD at the time.
“We did not let Maggie Thatcher criminalise them and we are not going to let Fianna Fail criminalise them today,” he said.