Unionist politicians have accused Mary Lou McDonald of showing contempt for the victims of terrorism.
They were speaking after the Sinn Fein president defended the IRA's campaign and said there was "every chance" she would have taken up arms during the Troubles had she lived in Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said: "Mary Lou McDonald's comments are an insult to all the many innocent victims of terrorism - on all sides in the Troubles.
"If the last decades have taught us anything it is that violence is not only counter-productive, it creates an immovable reluctance for anyone to engage with or trust those who glamorise or seek to identify with those who perpetrated terrorism."
Mr Aiken added: "Remarkably, for a political leader who says that she is willing to reach out to unionists, Mary Lou McDonald has demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the abhorrence we all feel for the Provisional IRA and its campaign of butchery as well as ethnic cleansing.
"There are many thousands who felt aggrieved, on all sides.
"Instead of resorting to terror, they sought to achieve change through peaceful and democratic means."
TUV leader Jim Allister said: "Sinn Fein might like us to think that Mary Lou McDonald is a fresh face for republicanism but it doesn't take much scratching of the surface to reveal the truth.
"Blindness to the obvious when it comes to history is a prerequisite for being leader of Sinn Fein.
"She waxes lyrical about furniture shop bomber Sands, but explains Enniskillen and Warrington away with references to historical context.
"In what context does McDonald believe that blowing up those remembering those who died for freedom and children out getting Mother's Day presents would be justified in the future?
"These are pertinent questions given her comments in her weekend interview."
The North Antrim MLA claimed that Ms McDonald's comments revealed "contempt for innocent victims for the IRA".
He added: "For once it is refreshing to read of a journalist prepared to actually put these issues to Ms McDonald and revealing to see the moral vacuum which the answers reveal."