Varadkar: Gerry Adams is a 'self-serving phoney'
Health Minister goes on the offensive as he seeks to distance Fine Gael from possible coalition with Sinn Fein
Dr Varadkar described Sinn Fein as a "damaged party" which "cannot be trusted".
But in an extraordinary personal attack on Gerry Adams, the Dublin West TD accused the Sinn Fein leader of accepting "dig outs from his friends" after he flew to the US for health treatment.
In 2013, Mr Adams travelled to the US for treatment over a prostate issue, saying afterwards that the flights were paid for by the Friends of Sinn Fein organisation. Mr Adams paid for the procedure himself.
Dr Varadkar said Ireland does not need another Taoiseach who gets "dig outs" from his friends.
"Ireland does not need another Taoiseach who gets dig-outs from his friends when he skips the country. We need a Taoiseach who has faith and confidence in our own country. A true patriot like our Taoiseach, not a self-serving phoney like Mr Adams," Dr Varadkar said.
The minister said the electorate is being presented with a choice between a "coalition of extremes" and one which "puts Ireland first".
"In Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein we have two damaged parties: one which undermined this country through sheer incompetence, and another which undermined the country deliberately and by design," he said.
"Neither can be trusted to lead a government. And our job is to make sure they are not," he said.
Dr Varadkar noted that the opposition consists of "Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein, who now even do joint press conferences together on the plinth".
The senior Fine Gael politician made the remarks during a health discussion at today's Fine Gael national conference in Castlebar, Co Mayo.
Mr Adams later said it was disappointing but not surprising that the health minister 'was stooping to personalised attacks'
"It is a mark of political bankruptcy to attack one's opponent rather than the arguments of that opponent," Mr Adams said.
"The fact is this Government is wedded to austerity and the price that citizens are paying is evident in the record number of citizens languishing on trolleys in our hospital corridors; by the many citizens waiting for elective surgery; and by others who can't be sent home, even though they have been medically discharged, because this Government hasn't given them protections they deserve.
"But of course the Minister doesn't address himself to these issues. His remarks on the North are equally misleading.
"While many grassroots Fine Gael supporters have a sound position on Partition, the fact is the Fine Gael leadership believes the North is a foreign country.
"During the recent Stormont talks, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste allied themselves with British Tories, in an effort to nationalise their austerity agenda. They failed.
"The Stormont House Agreement was achieved despite the efforts of the Irish Government, not because of them."