Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has been branded a hypocrite after choosing to have an operation in America rather than using the public health service in Ireland.
The Louth deputy opted to use private medical care in the States for surgery on a prostate problem last summer.
Now Adams has been accused of being ‘incredibly hypocritical’ after criticising private healthcare on both sides of the border.
Politicians in Dublin and Belfast have claimed that his actions are at odds with Sinn Fein policy.
Sinn Fein has said the surgery, which was not cancer related, was paid for by Adams who takes the average industrial wage of just over $40,000 from his deputy’s salary and gives the rest to the party.
A spokesman told the Irish Independent that Adams had been advised the procedure was best carried out in New York.
Asked if the procedure could not be carried out by the HSE or the National Health Service (NHS) in the North, his spokesman said: “That’s a matter for Gerry and not for me.”
The paper reports that last year Adams said: “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.”
Fianna Fail has led the criticism of Adams. Their parliamentary 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 said: “This is 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? This is another example of the doublespeak we have come to expect from Sinn Fein.”
In Belfast the SDLP assembly member Conall McDevitt criticised Adams for opting out of the National Health Service.
He said: “In terms of socialism and social democracy, this is against SDLP values of not seeking better treatment simply because you have more money.”
Sinn Fein has also confirmed that Adams’ flights were paid for by Friends of Sinn Fein, its US-based support group.
Adams was due in the US on party business at the time to meet the Friends of Sinn Fein board.
Adams also underwent eye surgery in November at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he was referred there by his doctor.