ONE of the foremost financial magazines in the US has been forced to withdraw a claim our President is gay – with the author making an abject apology.
The happily married President Michael D Higgins was described as an "acknowledged homosexual" in an article in 'Forbes' magazine, the influential US business bible.
'Forbes' prides itself on providing information for the world's business leaders and is internationally famous for its rich lists of the wealthy.
However, within hours of the publication, the author of the piece acknowledged his "terrible" error and apologised to President Higgins.
The writer said it was the worst mistake of his career and apologised to the Higgins family.
The apology came after the article was published on the prestigious magazine's widely read website.
It took a number of hours for the internationally acclaimed magazine 'Forbes' to realise the mistake and it was subsequently taken down from its online edition. The Irish-based American author of the article has said his claim about President Higgins was "the worst mistake I have ever made".
Cork-based writer David Monagan said he feels "horrible" after making the error.
"I made a terrible mistake and I apologise to Michael D Higgins who I have respect for," he said.
'Forbes' magazine and website describes itself as a leading source for "reliable" news on politics, economics, business and finance.
The article was subsequently withdrawn from the magazine's website when the error was highlighted.
Mr Monagan said the mistake should not have been made and should have been spotted by the magazine prior to publication.
"I feel horrible. The story is that I made a mistake, for which I apologise from my heart. It was under deadline pressure and is inexcusable.
"I have been reporting on the most complex, difficult things, including cardiovascular medicine for 35 years and I have never had a mistake like this.
"I have written millions of words about Ireland and this is the worst mistake I have ever made," he said.
In the article, he wrote: "The current president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, is a poet, acknowledged homosexual, and nearly as outspoken as his predecessors."
President Higgins is happily married to wife Sabina and the couple have four children.
The extraordinary nature of the claim in such a prestigious publication astounded personal friends and political associates of the President.
The President maintained a dignified silence last night.
Aras an Uachtarain is understood to have not been aware of the article until it was drawn to their attention through media queries.
The magazine withdrew the article – penned by the Irish-based freelance writer – from its website yesterday evening. A Forbes spokeswoman said it is "looking into the matter".
But friends of the President said it was an astonishing claim.
"Well, I'd suggest they'd want to amend that," said one.
"Is it a genuine mistake that they're confusing him with David Norris?
"It's bizarre. If they want to set up a photo, there's Michael D and Sabina and the four kids," a friend said.
The President is married to Sabina for nearly 40 years and the couple have four children, Alice Mary, John, Michael and Daniel.
In political circles, the ridiculous nature of the assertion prompted bemusement.
"Who acknowledged it?" a source said laughing.
"I don't think he'd be all that offended really," a Labour Party source said.
The article in 'Forbes' was a profile of Samantha Power, the Irish woman being appointed as US Ambassador to the United Nations. The piece goes into the background of the last three presidents of Ireland.
The article has since been withdrawn from all online editions and the US publisher is expected to issue a statement on the matter.
Mr Monagan moved to Ireland 10 years ago with his wife, Jamie, and three children from Connecticut in the US.
He bought a house just outside Cork city centre after falling in love with Ireland through repeated visits and a 12-month sabbatical.