Satirical magazine Private Eye has apologised for publishing a spoof letter about the historic handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.
In its latest issue, on the newstands today, editor Ian Hislop confirmed the famous magazine had been fooled.
The fake letter — purporting to come from a senior Sinn Fein figure — was brought to the Have I Got News For You star’s attention by the Belfast Telegraph.
The fortnightly publication admitted it had not checked if the letter from ‘A Maskey’ had actually been sent by Assembly member and former Belfast Lord Mayor Alex Maskey.
The apology is contained in a response to another letter pointing out how Private Eye had been fooled.
The letter — with the headline “Mayor Culpa” — from Magheragall man Harry Clarke, suggests the magazine’s “irony filter” is at fault.
“As the shrewdest of organs you should really have seen this coming,” he adds.
“Apologies,” wrote Mr Hislop below it. “We were indeed taken in.”
The original spoof letter criticised a Private Eye front page — which portrayed the Queen meeting the deputy First Minister in a full bomb disposal outfit — as “most unfair”.
“After all, Martin has proven himself over many years to be a loyal British citizen. Let’s not forget that he was instrumental in destroying the IRA and its weapons,” it stated.
“He was also a big supporter of his native city, Derry, becoming the 2013 UK City of Culture and has been foremost on condemning Republicans who continue to attack British Forces, urging people to give information to the British authorities about these attacks.”
Mr Maskey, chair of Stormont’s Social Development Committee, told the Telegraph: “I would not like anyone to think it had come from me.
“And while that may be apparent to readers on this side of the Irish Sea it may not be so clear to the magazine’s main readership.
“I have never really read Private Eye but given its reputation I would have expected it would check on the veracity of the letter.
“There is no other A Maskey in Belfast to my knowledge and they obviously didn’t check.”
Mr Hislop told us: “We didn’t recognise the name. We can only put our hands up.”Flashback: how we broke the story. Right, Alex Maskey