Adams's denials 'must now be taken with a pinch of salt'
Varadkar ramps up pressure as shaken Sinn Féin leader says he will speak to gardaí over Donaldson assassination claims
A visibly shaken Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has confirmed his willingness to be interviewed by gardaí over bombshell allegations that he personally sanctioned the 2006 assassination of Denis Donaldson.
Sinn Féin has been left reeling by claims that Mr Adams played a central role in the murder of the former senior party official.
Senior Government figures last night ramped up the heat on Mr Adams, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying he expects the claims to be investigated.
"Of course, if these allegations have any basis, they should be investigated. And obviously I would expect that Deputy Adams would co-operate with any investigation that might take place in that regard," Mr Kenny told reporters at the Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar went further, saying that Mr Adams's constant denials of his involvement in atrocities should now be taken with a "pinch of salt".
"Allegations are only allegations. But when it comes to Gerry Adams now, there are just so many allegations of his involvement in crime and murder and atrocities in the past," Mr Varadkar said.
"It's very hard to believe his constant denials and I really think it's something that should be investigated."
Gardaí are understood to be examining the fresh allegations, which were made by the BBC 'Spotlight' programme this week.
The accusations against Mr Adams were brought by a former IRA member known as 'Martin', who says he has personal knowledge of the Louth TD's alleged role in the murder of his former associate.
It has also been alleged that Mr Adams's close friend, former IRA figure and tax cheat Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, sought the murder of Mr Donaldson at an isolated cottage in Glenties, Co Donegal.
Mr Donaldson was murdered after his double life as a British agent had been revealed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin lashed out at Mr Adams and his party over its "attack and deny" strategy to deal with any such allegations.
"I do get concerned when Sinn Féin just pounce on the messenger, attack and deny, attack and deny, which is a standard pattern of Sinn Féin response to situations like this," Mr Martin said.
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin also piled the pressure on, saying there isn't a "child in the country" who believes Mr Adams's denials of membership of the terror group.
But as expected, the Sinn Féin apparatus went into overdrive yesterday, with its TDs accusing the Government of playing politics and the BBC of shoddy journalism.
The BBC released a statement saying it stood over its journalism.
Speaking outside the Sinn Féin tent at the championships, Mr Adams labelled the murder claims as "lies" and said the contents of the programme were being considered by his lawyers.
"It's wrong. I repudiate it, deny it absolutely and categorically and specifically," he said. Mr Adams suggested that "elements within the British system" were behind the allegations.
"The person who made this allegation - an anonymous, unnamed, self-professed agent of the British state. So whose agenda is that serving? This is an attempt to rewrite history.
"There are elements within the British system who will never be reconciled with the fact that we have got a peace process and that Sinn Féin are in the leadership of that process, along with others."
But he admitted that he would speak to gardaí if asked to do so.
"Absolutely, of course I will."
The revelations are highly damaging for Mr Adams politically, particularly as his party prepares for the new Dáil term.
But the North's First Minister Martin McGuinness branded the allegation against his party colleague "total rubbish".
"The fact is the Donaldson family are actually very close to all of us within the leadership of Sinn Féin," he said.
"And I think the fact that dissident republicans claimed responsibility for this and it appears for the last 10 years the Garda Síochána in Donegal have been investigating that line of inquiry, I think gives total nonsense to the allegation that was made principally by someone who appears to be a paid agent, and I use the word 'agent' in inverted commas."
Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also rubbished the allegations.
Timeline of controversies
Gerry Adams has been the face of Sinn Féin for more than three decades but has been at the centre of a string of controversies during his tenure:
Allegation of withholding information in rape case
In 2000, Mr Adams was told his brother Liam had abused his niece Áine but it wasn't until 2007 that the Sinn Féin president engaged with police.
In 2013 Liam Adams was jailed for 16 years for rape and abuse. The DPP in Northern Ireland carried out a review as to whether Mr Adams should be charged with withholding information, but eventually decided that he should not be prosecuted.
Arrest in relation to murder of Jean McConville
Gerry Adams was arrested by detectives investigating the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville. She was abducted, shot dead and buried at a Co Louth beach in 1972. Mr Adams was questioned for four days before being released without charge in 2014. Sinn Féin made accusations of political policing.
'Hold the editor at gunpoint'
At a dinner in New York in November 2014, the Louth TD made comments about a gun being placed to the head of the editor of the Irish Independent in the 1920s.
This sparked outrage in media circles, especially as two journalists from the Independent group were previously murdered for their work.
Mairia Cahill told her story of rape and being subjected to an IRA kangaroo court to BBC's 'Spotlight' programme in October 2014.
But Gerry Adams denied any kangaroo court was held. Later he claimed the abuse was carried about by her uncle, saying "most abuse happens in families".
But Ms Cahill pointed out that her alleged abuser was not a blood relative.
Last year a report by the PSNI and MI5 concluded that the structures of the PIRA remain in existence and that the Army Council oversees Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy.
Members of the PIRA have been directed to support Sinn Féin, including electioneering. Mr Adams called the report "a serious piece of mischief-making".
Earlier this year Mr Adams was at the centre of an international storm over the use of a racist slur on social media.
He apologised for using the N-word in a tweet about film 'Django Unchained' in which he compared the struggle against slavery in the US to the plight of Irish nationalists.