Sinn Féin has branded criticism over its leader Mary Lou McDonald posing with an “England, get out of Ireland” banner at a St Patrick’s Day parade in New York “faux outrage”.
The party posted the picture on social media with the caption: “No explanation needed.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney was among the most outspoken critics, telling Mary Lou McDonald over social media: “This is NOT leadership – it’s offensive, divisive and an embarrassment.”
He added: “Grow up, this is NOT Ireland in 2019. We are better than this.”
In a statement, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “The most divisive and offensive act on this island for almost the last 100 years has been the partition of Ireland.
“It should come as no surprise that Sinn Féin wants a new United Ireland under the provisions of Good Friday Agreement.
“The faux outrage of some of our political opponents owes more to the silly season of a holiday weekend and petty political point-scoring.”
Unionist politicians also responded angrily to the photo.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the caption used “sums up the party’s attitude to explanations, truth and respect”.
He added that, when it comes to slogans like the one on the banner, the unionist community “are well within their rights to see themselves as the intended focus”.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann MLA also branded the banner “highly offensive”.
He added: “Once again, Mary Lou McDonald as president of Sinn Féin has shown them up for what they are really all about …
“Their unionist engagement has fallen flat on its face because they just can’t help themselves.”