GERRY Adams came under intense pressure to apologise last night after he claimed that two RUC officers had themselves to blame for their savage murders.
The Sinn Fein leader was strongly criticised on both sides of the Border after making astonishing remarks about the 1989 killings of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.
Mr Adams, pictured, blamed the two men for their own deaths, which he said happened because they displayed a "laissez faire disregard" for their security.
And he sparked a furious response from the family of one of the officers by claiming that the two men "seemed to think they were immune" to an IRA attack and had been "sailing in and out of Dundalk garda station".
Sinn Fein sources last night said TDs were unaware that Mr Adams was planning on making such claims – which have now left him isolated in the Dail.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter described the remarks as "nauseating".
"The truth is, you had two respected senior members of the RUC barbarically murdered in cold blood, by individuals with whom Mr Adams was associated," he added.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the suggestion that the two officers were reckless "could not be further from the truth".
"The proposition that high-ranking RUC officers in the times that were in it would have disregard for their personal safety is simply an outrageous insinuation."
"This was a case of brutal, pre-meditated murder by the Provisional IRA and nothing Mr Adams says will ever change that fact," she added.
Mr Adams was facing demands to apologise last night to the families of the murdered officers. John McBurney, solicitor for the Breen family, described Mr Adams as "an apologist for the terrorists who murdered these two officers".
He added: "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that he would try to come to the defence of those who murdered these officers if that's what he's attempting to do."
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were gunned down on March 20, 1989, in south Armagh, shortly after a meeting with senior gardai in Dundalk, Co Louth.
The details of their deaths have come to light again following this week's publication of the Smithwick Report, which found that there was collusion between gardai and the IRA.
But Mr Adams sparked a furious response by rejecting the finding that collusion took place.
During an interview on Newstalk radio, Mr Adams said that former IRA volunteers had told the tribunal they monitored the comings and goings at the station before the ambush.
"So when you have that type of laissez faire disregard for their own security by both An Garda Siochana in relation to these two RUC officers and, more importantly by the RUC officers themselves – "Here they were in the heart of south Armagh, in the middle of a very, very severe conflict at that time, and seemed to think that they were immune to attack by the IRA and, tragically as it turned out for them, that wasn't the case," Mr Adams said.
He remarked that "sure the same thing happened to IRA volunteers" in the North during the Troubles.
"When you have that type of failure to protect the RUC operatives in the middle of a war then what happened happens," he added.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said that yesterday was the appropriate time to reflect on the hurt being felt by the families.
"I don't think you do yourself, your party, or the peace process any service today by saying what you have said," he told Mr Adams.