LUCINDA Creighton has accused her former Fine Gael colleague Leo Varadkar of sneering at the number of people who attended the Reform Alliance conference.
The Transport Minister was criticised by Ms Creighton after he claimed the so-called monster meeting in the RDS attracted fewer participants than a 10km road race in Waterford.
Mr Varadkar laughed off suggestions that the group now represented a threat to political parties, claiming that Saturday's conference was attended by "a lot of pro-life activists".
And he joked that he didn't attend the conference himself because he was competing in a road race in Dungarvan, which attracted more participants than the RDS event.
Ms Creighton last night hit out at her former colleague's remarks, which she described as a sneer.
"If Leo wants to sneer at 1,450 people turning up to discuss politics and the future of the country, it's very sad," she told the Irish Independent.
Asked whether he was worried about the large crowd that attended the conference, Mr Varadkar said: "I'm not that worried. I didn't make it myself, I was doing a run, the John Treacy run down in Dungarvan where over 2,000 people turned up, so that might put some sort of perspective on it."
According to the West Waterford Athletics Club, some 1,700 runners took part while hundreds more turned out to show their support.
The Reform Alliance claims that its event was attended by 1,450 people.
The pair were both elected as councillors in 2004, as TDs in 2007, and appointed as ministers in 2011.
But the remarks represent the latest bitter exchange between members of the Reform Alliance and Fine Gael.
Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan this week accused his former colleagues of being "anti-Enda Kenny". Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan said they shared "very little in terms of common ground" and should return to the Fine Gael fold.
Members of the Reform Alliance have been forced to deny that the conference represented a 'pro-life rally' after Ms Creighton received a standing ovation for defending the decision to vote against the abortion legislation.
Mr Varadkar, who was seen as being close to Ms Creighton before she quit Fine Gael, also said he believed Saturday's event was attended by a number of disgruntled members of former parties.
"I did think it interesting that I recognised a lot of the faces, a lot of people who were maybe disgruntled members of former political parties, a lot of pro-life activists, so it was interesting to see the audience that was there," he said.
However, Ms Creighton insisted that abortion was just one issue of concern for the Reform Alliance and rejected that it was merely a pro-life group.
"I feel strongly about it – but there are many, many other issues that I feel just as strongly about," she said.
"I think the recovery of the country and our economy is the number one (issue) that exercises me and exercises most people in our state," she added.
The former European affairs minister said she believed the group of five TDs and two senators had the capacity to grow, adding that a number of Independent TDs had already approached them.
"We haven't tried to recruit anybody, and we have been approached by other Independents, we have discussed issues with them," she said.
"We've co-operated and we've co-sponsored amendments in the Dail so we are co-operating with other Independents – but our group is what it is at the moment," she told Newstalk.
"There may be potential to expand it in the future, but I think this exercise will feed into all of that."