FIANNA Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv has insisted that he was not supporting violence by attending the homecoming party for an IRA member convicted of attempted murder.
Mr O Cuiv drove up from Galway to Tyrone last Friday night to attend the party for Gerry McGeough in a local pub.
McGeough (54) had been sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder of an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier.
The shooting took place more than 30 years ago but McGeough was only arrested in 2007 and sentenced in 2011, serving two years of his sentence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr O Cuiv said it would be absolutely outrageous for anyone to insinuate he supported violence by attending McGeough's party.
"I don't support violence – British government violence, loyalist violence. But I've had lunch with the chief command of the Ulster Defence Association. Do I support them? No. Do I think the UDA was right? No."
The Galway West TD had campaigned for McGeough's release from jail and said he had the "full support" of Fianna Fail for his actions.
He said he disagreed with the decision to send McGeough to jail when there had been a commitment by the British government that this would not happen to prisoners "on-the-run" when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.
He said that he did not believe there should be any prosecutions for any crimes committed during the Troubles, including the 14 Bloody Sunday killings.
"If people support Gerry McGeough, they obviously support the peace process because he has been involved in the peace process for nigh-on 20 years," he said.
McGeough joined the Provisional IRA's East Tyrone brigade in 1977 at the age of 19.
In 1981, he shot Ulster Defence Regiment member and postman Sammy Brush, who was making a delivery to a house north of Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone.
Mr Brush, who was saved by his bullet-proof jacket, returned fire during the attack.
McGeough was later arrested in August 1988, crossing the Dutch-German border with two AK47 rifles in his car.
The subsequent trial in Germany was interrupted by his extradition to the US, where he was sentenced over his attempts – in 1983 – to buy surface-to-air missiles.
He was deported to the Republic on his release in 1996.