Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

TUV sorry for 'leprechaun' slur

Jim Allister
Jim Allister is the leader of Traditional Unionist Voice

Traditional Unionist Voice has apologised for its "childishness" after issuing a statement describing Irish as a "leprechaun language".

The statement was issued under the name of TUV vice-chairman Keith Harbinson and condemned the Department of Education for "wasting" money on Irish.

However, after being distributed to the media, the press release on the party's website was changed to remove the term.

A spokesman told the BBC the original words were a "childish mistake".

The original press release was entitled "TUV Blast Leprechaun Language Waste" and distributed to media outlets.

However, that was changed to "TUV Blast Irish Language Waste" when the press release was hosted on the party's website.

The change came to light following discussions about the original press release on the political weblog, Slugger O'Toole.

The BBC understands that Mr Harbinson, who stood as a candidate for the party in last year's by-election in Dromore, was displeased that the term "leprechaun language" was used.

It had been added to the press release by an employee of the party.

Mr Harbinson said he wished to apologise for any offence which was "unintended".

"We have apologised if we have hurt feelings," he said.

"Really the focus on the description of the Irish language is getting away from the substantive issue which is why the minister is spending £47,000 on Irish translation."

The term "leprechaun language" was famously used by the current Finance Minister Sammy Wilson during a debate at Belfast City Council in the 1980s.

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