I was at IRA meetings with Adams, claims ex-terrorist
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams faced fresh accusations that he was an "extremely senior member" of the IRA as he prepared to speak at a $500-a-head dinner in the US last night.
Former IRA member Sean O'Callaghan alleged that he sat in high-level meetings of the terrorist organisation alongside Mr Adams.
"We all know that Gerry was an extremely senior member of the IRA for years. You know I've been at IRA meetings with him. Everybody knows it," said Mr O'Callaghan, who was jailed for life in 1990 after he admitted to two murders. He was freed under a Royal Prerogative in 1996.
Mr Adams and his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald missed a Dail debate on social welfare to attend the lavish event in New York.
As a result, they were attacked by the main Republic parties for "rubbing shoulders with super-wealthy Americans" while the Irish budget was being discussed.
Around 700 people were due to attend the fundraiser in Manhattan, meaning Sinn Fein stands to make more than $350,000. The cocktail and dinner party was sponsored by a number of US-based construction firms.
Last year, Mr Adams used to the event to criticise the media for questioning him over the Mairia Cahill scandal and joked about the editor of the Irish Independent being held at gunpoint.
The Dail was yesterday debating changes to income tax rates, child benefit and pension payments.
Labour TD Eric Byrne said: "When it comes to welfare and finance, as far as TDs Adams and McDonald are concerned, the only things that matter are the welfare of Sinn Fein and the finance to fund their political operations."
Fine Gael's Noel Harrington said the fundraiser gave "a startling insight into how Sinn Fein is supported by a golden circle of American property developers".
"In fact, Sinn Fein is like Celtic Tiger era-Fianna Fail on steroids," he added.
And Fianna Fail's Jim O'Callaghan said: "At some stage, naive Americans that donate to Sinn Fein will wake up and see that Sinn Fein views them as a wealthy but slightly dim uncle who can be fooled into parting with his cash."
Sinn Fein rejected what they called "opportunistic posturing" by the other parties.
"Tanaiste Joan Burton absented herself from a Dail debate on the North on Tuesday as soon as she finished her own rambling contribution, so Sinn Fein won't take lectures from Labour TDs on attendance," a spokesman said.
Mr O'Callaghan also claimed that everything the republican movement was doing at the moment was geared towards the General Election in the Republic.
"I don't think that Gerry Adams could persuade anyone that the IRA won, so there is always a danger of things slipping back in some way," he added.
Sinn Fein said his claims were "outlandish".