The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliott has come under intense criticism after describing Sinn Fein as "scum" in an election count outburst.
Speaking at the end of the count for the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency he referred to the Irish tricolour as "the flag of a foreign nations".
Tom Elliott rounded on republicans who were celebrating a major gain in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency.
Sinn Fein later attacked 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.
When interviewed on UTV Mr Elliott said: "These are the people that have tried to destroy this country for years," he said, before saying that the victims of violence should not be forgotten about."
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."
Mr Elliott, whose party faces losses in the Assembly election, cited the history of IRA violence.
Mr O'Dowd referred to Mr Elliott's former membership of the security forces, and the role of the army in the Troubles.
The Sinn Fein member said all sides had suffered in the conflict, but that the election had seen voters endorse the power-sharing government born out of the peace process.