Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 17:33 UK

Italian row AM's personal apology

Alun Cairns AM
Alun Cairns has personally apologised to Welsh Italians

The Conservative Welsh assembly member who called Italians "greasy wops" and lost his front bench job has called it the hardest political week of his life.

Alun Cairns made the controversial comment on a BBC Radio Cymru political discussion programme.

Writing in the Glamorgan Gazette, he described the remark as inappropriate.

He said he had visited a number of Italians in Wales to apologise personally and has had a positive reaction.

Guests on the Dau o'r Bau programme were discussing who to support in Euro 2008.

The comment doesn't reflect my views or feelings towards Italy or Italian people
Alun Cairns

One panellist said she had written "nice food" next to Italy. Mr Cairns said he had written "greasy wops".

Alun Cairns, the AM for South Wales West, lost his jobs as the Conservative education spokesman in the assembly and chair of the finance committee.

He has also been suspended as the Tory parliamentary candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan pending an investigation by the party in Westminster.

Writing in his column in the newspaper, Mr Cairns said he was truly sorry.

'Angry and frustrated'

"The comment doesn't reflect my views or feelings towards Italy or Italian people, in fact, I am a huge admirer of their commercial, social and cultural contributions," he said.

He talks warmly of a visit to Italy which he called one of the most pleasant holidays of his life.

"Therefore I am not only annoyed, angry and frustrated with myself for making such an inappropriate comment, I am also embarrassed, considering the above," he added.

"I have subsequently visited a number of the local Italian population and apologised in person.

"Thankfully, the ones I have spoken to so far have received me well, which again shows their widespread generosity.

"Again I can only offer my apology for the offence caused."

Questions still hang over Mr Cairns' future as parliamentary candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Conservative inquiry is likely to be led by party chairman Caroline Spelman.




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