Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has clashed with Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson after he wore a wristband supporting the Army at a meeting with families bereaved by British troops.
Details of their behind-the-scenes disagreement have leaked after the senior republican led a delegation of families from west Belfast to meet the Conservative MP to discuss what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.
But as the relatives recounted how 11 of their loved ones were shot dead by troops in 1971, Mr Adams challenged Mr Paterson on his wearing of a wristband backing the Royal Irish Regiment at the meeting.
Government sources played down the incident and said Mr Paterson had worn the green wristband over a lengthy period in support of troops based in his North Shropshire constituency and that he had meant no offence.
But critics who recounted events in the meeting at Stormont House, near the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast, said: "During the course of the meeting, the wristband was clearly visible.
"At one point Gerry challenged Owen Paterson for wearing the wristband, given the nature of the meeting.
"Gerry made the point that this is a regiment that was born out of the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) which would not be thought of affectionately by nationalists.
"But more importantly this was a meeting at which a British Secretary of State was listening to a succession of horror stories from families who are victims of the British Army."
A Government source said Mr Paterson had not sought to cause offence and had worn the wristband for a lengthy period to back troops based in the area he represents at Westminster.
"The regiment is based in Owen Paterson's constituency and recruits soldiers from both communities in Northern Ireland, from the Republic of Ireland and from up to 11 nations," the source said. "The Secretary of State was very pleased to support them on their way in Afghanistan."