SINN Fein leader Gerry Adams has been accused of being "incredibly hypocritical" for choosing private medical care in the US, despite criticising private healthcare here and in the North.
Mr Adams has been criticised by politicians on both sides of the Border, with an SDLP assembly member, as well as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail politicians, saying his actions are at odds with Sinn Fein policy.
The Louth TD underwent a "surgical procedure" in New York last summer. Sinn Fein is not providing details of it, except to say it was a prostate problem but not cancer.
The party says Mr Adams, who insists he only takes home the average industrial wage of €33,000, paid for the procedure out of his own pocket. A spokesman said Mr Adams had been advised the procedure was best carried out in New York. When asked if the procedure could not be carried out by the HSE or the National Health Service (NHS) in the North, a spokesman for Mr Adams said: "That's a matter for Gerry and not for me."
This is despite Sinn Fein consistently criticising the Government over its claims the health service is being privatised.
"The policy of the last government and of this is to encourage the privatisation of the health service, including private nursing homes and to cut resources to public nursing homes," Mr Adams said last year.
But Fianna Fail's Seanad leader Darragh O'Brien said: "I hope the operation was a success but it does seem to me to be incredibly hypocritical. Do Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein not trust the Irish health service?"
Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan (pictured) said this was "another example of Sinn Fein socialism – it suits them one day and the next it doesn't".
"This is not very consistent with Sinn Fein policy, is it?" Mr Flanagan asked. "This is another example of the doublespeak we have come to expect from Sinn Fein." And Cork East Fine Gael TD Tom Barry accused Mr Adams of adopting a "do as I say, not as I do" attitude.
SDLP Belfast assembly member Conall McDevitt criticised Mr Adams for opting out of the NHS, which would be available to him in Belfast. "In terms of socialism and social democracy, this is against SDLP values of not seeking better treatment simply because you have more money," Mr McDevitt said.
Sinn Fein said Mr Adams' flights were paid for by Friends of Sinn Fein, its US-based support group. It also claims Mr Adams was in the US on party business, and meeting the Friends of Sinn Fein board.
Mr Adams also underwent eye surgery in November at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he was referred there by his GP.