Outspoken London Mayor Boris Johnson has apologised for labelling a St Patrick's Day dinner held in the city as “lefty crap” linked to Sinn Fein.
Mr Johnson infuriated members of the Irish community in London with the remarks published in a magazine last month.
But now he has climbed down by acknowledging that the dinners were not actually linked to Sinn Fein.
Mr Johnson told the Irish Independent: “I am profoundly sorry if I have offended any Irish person.”
He said he never intended to offend anyone, and added: “I hope that people will see I was making a point about cost cutting.”
Mr Johnson sparked fury when he told the 'New Statesman' magazine that what made him angry was “lefty crap” like “spending £20,000 on a dinner at the Dorchester for Sinn Fein”.
Irish organisations in Britain pointed out that the annual St Patrick's day event was self-financing and embraced the entire Irish community, including the likes of Bob Geldof, the Irish Ambassador and chef Richard Corrigan.
Mr Johnson has also written to the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith to clarify his position.
“Although I note that the guests of honour at the 2008 St Patrick's Day dinner were Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty, these were not dinners for Sinn Fein and, of course, I make absolutely no assumptions about the political allegiances of those who attended the dinners.”
He added: “I regret any unintended offence that I may have given.” Later, Mr Johnson, a classical scholar, used Latin to make his point: “Mayoral culpa, mayoral maxima culpa.”
With an election on May 3 and pundits unable to call who is ahead, the mayor is slugging it out with Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone, who was mayor twice before. Mr Johnson said his comments were made in this context.
“My remarks about the dinner were about cutting costs,” said Mr Johnson.
“Ken and his chums ran up bills of £37,500 for first class airfares and hotels visiting Fidel Castro in Cuba and I had to cancel a £10,000-a-year subscription to the 'Morning Star' (the British communist newspaper).”
Both men are eager to be mayor when the Olympic Games arrive in London this summer.
As Mayor of London, Mr Johnson is the second most powerful Tory politician in Britain and he wants Irish votes to help him secure the glittering prize.