An attempt by Gerry Adams to woo unionist voters has met with a hostile response from the two main pro-UK parties.
The Sinn Fein president called on unionists to “seriously consider” voting for his party when the UK goes to the polls this Thursday.
He said he was appealing to low and middle-income unionists in particular.
However, both the DUP and UUP issued statements which contrasted this call with his record of contentious remarks, and his support for the IRA.
Mr Adams said both the Conservatives and Labour Party were committed to further cutbacks, adding: “On Thursday I would appeal to unionist voters to reflect on the fact that the unionist parties do not represent their economic interests.
“I’d ask unionist voters to consider voting Sinn Fein and join with us in opposing the planned cuts to public services, including health and education; all of which will hurt the unemployed, the sick, people with disabilties and the elderly; and those on low and middle incomes.”
However, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt hit back, saying: “Gerry Adams is simply toxic and unionism will rightly struggle to do business with Sinn Fein until he has gone away.”
When it comes to the reasons, he said: “Where to start?”
Mr Nesbitt pointed to the case of IRA murder victim Jean McConville – a mother-of-10 whose abduction and killing was recently described as an example of “what happens in wars” by Mr Adams.
Mr Nesbitt said: “This man condoned the ultimate austerity cut on the McConville family, the murder and disappearing of a mother that condemned 10 children to lives of relentless misery.”
Mr Adams had been questioned over her death last year before being released without charge, and at the time said her death was a “grievous injustice”.
Meanwhile, DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “Whilst Gerry Adams is appealing for unionist votes, its only a few months since he was calling unionists ‘b*****ds’ and proclaiming how he was going to ‘break them’.”
He was referring to other recent comments by Mr Adams, in which he declared that the republican movement’s “Trojan horse” strategy was to use the issue of equality to “break” their opponents.
Mr Adams later insisted his remarks had been referring to “bigots”, not to unionists.
The DUP leader also dubbed Mr Adams’ stance “illogical” because Sinn Fein’s refusal to back welfare reform is resulting in millions of pounds-worth of financial penalties for the Province, levied by Westminster.
He also highlighted the party’s abstentionist position, adding: “A vote for Sinn Fein in this election is a wasted vote.”
The News Letter put it to Sinn Fein that, since their MPs refuse to sit in Parliament, any other party would offer voters better representation.
It also asked whether the party believes it will be hard to court the unionist vote, given its support for an armed insurrection against unionists.
No response was received.