The leader of Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party is under pressure after branding Sinn Fein "scum" in an election count outburst.
Tom Elliott rounded on republicans who were celebrating a major gain in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency.
Sinn Fein later described his remarks as being out of step with the co-operation between republicans and unionists at Stormont.
Sinn Fein took three of six seats in the Fermanagh area, ousting the nationalist SDLP. But Mr Elliott, who was also elected, used his acceptance speech to attack Sinn Fein supporters for waving Irish tricolours.
"I see many people here today with flags, many of them flags of a foreign nation," he said.
As republicans cheered and heckled back at him, he added: "I would expect nothing better from the scum of Sinn Fein. Their counterparts in the IRA have murdered our citizens."
He later refused to retract his remarks and denied they were a throw-back to former times. But Sinn Fein's Assembly Chief Whip John O'Dowd rounded on the UUP figurehead who was installed as leader last year.
"I share the views of many in the Ulster Unionist Party (that) Tom Elliott will never make a political leader," said Mr O'Dowd. "Coming out with comments like he has is not political leadership."
DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "I'm pretty sure Tom's under a bit of pressure at this time so let's give him a bit of latitude on that."
But David Ford, leader of the cross-community Alliance Party, said many people, including UUP supporters would be "disgusted" by Mr Elliott's remarks. He said: "These were despicable comments that should be treated with the contempt they deserve by everyone."