Gerry Adams has said claims that he protected a paedophile are "vicious, obscene and offensive".
Mr Adams has been accused of withholding information about his niece's sexual abuse by his brother, Liam Adams. He was found guilty of rape last month.
The Sinn Fein leader told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme he "tries not to rise" to the comments.
"Edwin Poots is more to be pitied than to be scorned," he said.
"If that's the sum total of his contribution to making life better for people he needs to serve as health minister, then God help us all."
Mr Poots has accused Mr Adams of not reporting his brother to the authorities. The matter is being investigated by the attorney general.
"Sinn Fein has proposed an independent international based process to deal with the past. The fact is that none of the participants to the conflict can be responsible for creating such a process," he said.
"The British Government has refused, so far, to agree on any mechanism that can deal with this issue and the Irish Government has made no real effort to establish a viable truth recovery process. This is not acceptable.
"The past cannot be an obstacle to dealing with the present or a pretext for refusing to build a new future. While republicans recognise the difficulties confronting all of us in dealing with this issue we are not daunted by it. Nor should anyone be."
He said the role and actions of all "combatant organisations" must be fully considered, including government, state agencies and the legal and judicial system.
"Paramount in all of this must be the views of victims and survivors. All victims must be treated on an equal basis. The views of the many thousand victims and survivors who have remained silent must also be heard," he added.