'Sinn Féin answers to men with boiler suits and balaclavas'
Sinn Féin is answerable to the republican criminal underworld with "their boiler suits and balaclavas", Fine Gael's director of elections has claimed.
In the strongest attack yet by the main government party on Gerry Adams, Brian Hayes questioned who really runs the Sinn Féin.
And he said: "Sinn Fein presents itself as something new despite the fact that Mr Adams has been around as long as Robert Mugabe."
Mr Hayes's comments, made during a speech at the Fine Gael Ard Fhéis in Citywest, were met with roars of approval from up to 3,000 delegates.
The MEP also described Mr Adams as "that well-known economic guru from west Belfast" and said if the Coalition had followed his advice, the country would be facing 30 years of austerity.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny made no mention of Sinn Féin during his speech from the conference but Mr Hayes used his contribution about 10 minutes before Mr Kenny's televised address to rise the crowd.
"This party isn't fooled by Sinn Féin. We know what they are. The Irish people don't want Sinn Féin next or near the government of this Republic," he said.
"But the crucial question for Sinn Fein is who do they answer to? Is it the people or the republican criminal underworld - with their boiler suits and balaclavas?
"Their deputy leader, Ms McDonald recently described one Thomas Slab Murphy as 'a very typical rural man'. Mary Lou - with friends like that who needs enemies." He also hit out at Fianna Fáil and referenced its controversial attack poster on Fine Gael's record on health, saying the party "can't even get a proper poster campaign right these days".