A top U.S. diplomat called Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams "absurd" and "disingenuous," according to a leaked diplomatic cable released to the Belfast Telegraph by WikiLeaks.

The remarks from US Ambassador James Kenny came after Adams had claimed there was no link between republican activism and criminality.

Ahead of a meeting in December 2004 with then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin, Adams had said: “You cannot be a criminal and a republican activist. You cannot be involved in any criminality and involved in republican activism."

Adams remarks came just a week before the Northern Bank raid, which was widely blamed on the IRA.

In the confidential cable, Kenny warned that Sinn Fein had “hurt its standing” with the Irish government, referring to Mr Adams’ comments on crime as appearing “absurd and disingenuous at best.”

Kenny stated in a second dispatch that Adams is “tactically smart” by insisting on working with “the top level of government only.”

Kenny wrote: “This is tactically smart of Gerry Adams, especially if he, like others, sees the Taoiseach [Bertie Ahern] as less tough on republicans than the outspoken Justice Minister [Michael McDowell] or quieter but equally firm Foreign Minister [Dermot Ahern]."

Other cables detail how then Finance Minister Brian Cowen accused Adams of playing “a double game” on criminality, that he publicly took a hard line against criminality but avoided direct action to leave room for negotiating.

The cable was written five weeks after Robert McCartney was murdered outside a bar in Belfast. His family blamed the IRA for the January 2005 killing, with one member accusing Sinn Fein of being part of a cover-up.

“Cowen related his impression that Gerry Adams was playing a ‘double game’ – taking a hard public line against criminality, but avoiding definitive action in order to retain maneuverability for final negotiations with unionists,” the cable states.

“Cowen thought the family of murder victim Robert McCartney had done a valuable public service in exposing this form of equivocation.”

One cable claims that the Irish government told diplomats it had “rock solid evidence” that Adams was part of the IRA military command – a claim Adams has denied. The cable relates to the Northern Bank robbery and claims that Adams and party colleague Martin McGuinness had advanced knowledge of the IRA’s £26m heist.

Another dispatch written by Ambassador Kenny suggests that Ahern deliberately snubbed Adams after the raid.

“Collins avoided saying that the Taoiseach is deliberately holding Sinn Fein at arm’s length, but Ahern certainly could have made time to meet with Adams if he had wanted to,” the cable reports, in a dispatch reporting on a meeting with Michael Collins from the Taoiseach’s office.