David Trimble has come under fire for his remarks
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has been accused of making "dangerous and irresponsible" comments linking two murdered solicitors to terrorism.
He made the remarks in parliament about Rosemary Nelson, who was killed in a booby-trap bomb in Lurgan in 1999 and Pat Finucane, shot by loyalists in Belfast in 1989.
Mr Trimble later told the BBC he stood by his comments saying "offence" was "unavoidable", despite calls by both families for him to retract the remarks.
However, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association in Northern Ireland accused Mr Trimble of "putting certain solicitors lives at risk".
Pearse Mcdermott added: "The comments are deeply offensive, dangerous and irresponsible."
Both Mr Finucane and Mrs Nelson came to prominence while representing some high-profile republican clients.
Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern Ireland John Bailie said there were real concerns amongst lawyers in the province following Mr Trimble's remarks.
"The clear implication is that Mr Trimble might be making the mistake of judging the lawyers by the clients that he or she represents," he added.
"The fact of the matter is that this society is concerned about this kind of association of lawyers with their clients."
Rosemary Nelson died in a car bomb in March 1999
Mr Trimble's comments came after the government announced inquiries on Thursday into Mrs Nelson's murder and that of two others, all of which involved allegations of security force collusion.
However, legal proceedings are set to delay the Finucane case. A man has been charged with the Finucane murder and he is due to go on trial in September.
During his speech to the House of Commons, Mr Trimble talked about those who "have a clear terrorist connection".
He said he was opposed to such inquiries, but added: "If as a result of this, the truth about Finucane and Nelson comes into the public domain incontrovertibly, there will be some side effect."
On Friday, Mr Trimble said he stood by his comments.
"I don't think anybody thought he (Mr Finucane) was simply a lawyer," he told the BBC.
"I'm not saying he was (an IRA member), I'm just saying there's very, clear evidence of a close relationship."
Mrs Nelson's brother Eunan Magee described the comments as "totally wrong" and demanded that the Ulster Unionist leader withdraw them immediately.
He said: "Rosemary provided legal representation for her clients. To try and suggest that Rosemary herself was involved in terrorism in some way, it beggars belief."
The Finucane family also expressed anger about the comments.
Alex Attwood of the SDLP, who is also a lawyer, said Mr Trimble's comments were "outrageous" and "offensive".
Announcement of the inquiries coincided with publication of the reports by retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory who has examined claims of security force collusion in the killings.
A number of former soldiers named in Judge Cory's report on the murder of Pat Finucane have now said they want to face a public inquiry.
In the statement, issued by their London solicitors, the soldiers said they had faced years of criticism without being given the opportunity to state their case openly.
They said the inquiry would let them "correct years of inaccurate press reporting" and claims of collusion.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde has warned that public inquiries into
controversial murders risked undermining confidence in his force.
He said communities must not assume the cases reflected
the current state of policing in the province.
Last October, Judge Cory delivered six reports to the London and Dublin administrations about a total of eight killings on both sides of the border.
The retired Canadian judge was appointed by the British and Irish Governments in 2001.