SINN Fein rebel TD Peadar Toibin rapidly backtracked last night after appearing to contradict Gerry Adams's stance on the murder of two RUC officers by the IRA.
The move came as Mr Adams was again involved in tetchy exchanges about his denial of being a member of the IRA, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny declaring: "Nobody believes you."
Despite placing the blame solely with the IRA for the deaths, Mr Toibin said his views were "at one with the party".
Last week Mr Adams blamed the RUC officers for displaying a "laissez faire disregard" for their own security and said the IRA were "doing their duty".
Following the release of the Smithwick Tribunal report, Mr Adams said RUC officers believed they were "immune" from attack.
Mr Toibin made no such attempt to justify the murders or blame the RUC men.
"I don't believe it's ever correct to say that two police officers were murdered because of their own actions. These men's deaths were not determined by their own actions but the actions of the IRA.
"The IRA is responsible for the murder of these two men, not the officers themselves," he told the Irish Independent on Monday.
"As I said at the beginning of the conversation, the responsibility for the deaths lies with the people who kill them. It doesn't lie with the officers," he added.
However, Mr Toibin insisted yesterday that he holds the same beliefs as Mr Adams and denied he was contradicting his party leader. He said his views were "at one with the party".
"The people who are responsible for the killing of those RUC members are the IRA brigade that was involved in it. I believe that the IRA volunteers themselves would say as much," he told RTE's 'News at One' programme.
Mr Toibin was asked for a further statement outlining his views on the Smithwick Tribunal last night. However, none was forthcoming.
He admitted he has been approached by senior Fianna Fail figures to join the party.
Mr Toibin is currently suspended from Sinn Fein after voting against the party on the abortion legislation.
However, he said he sees his future in Sinn Fein and described Mr Adams as "one of the finest political leaders in Ireland".
But Mr Kenny yesterday said "nobody believes" Mr Adams when he claims he was never a member of the IRA.
Mr Kenny and Mr Adams were involved in sharp exchanges in the Dail during Leaders' Questions.
The Taoiseach challenged Mr Adams, asking him if he was ever a member of the IRA. "Nobody believes you," he said three times.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald backed Mr Adams and said she did not believe his remarks had damaged the party.
Ms McDonald said there were "shortfalls" in the officers' security arrangements, but she rejected suggestions that Mr Adams's use of the phrase "laissez faire" had damaged Sinn Fein.
She also rejected the claim that her party leader had been insulting and pointed to the "duty of care" the RUC and gardai had to their officers -- as pointed to in the report.
"In my mind, the balance in terms of who fell down in that situation fell actually to the RUC and to An Garda Siochana. They had a duty of care to their officers coming and going with that level of frequency," she said.
Ms McDonald said she "absolutely appreciates" how difficult the loss of the two men, and the gruelling tribunal process, had been for their families.
Ms McDonald, who is tipped as the next Sinn Fein leader, is now the most high-profile party figure to pledge support for Mr Adams over his remarks.
She said she believed Mr Adams acted "sensitively" when he gave his analysis of the officers' deaths.
Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent