LABOUR'S Pat Rabbitte gave a half-hearted apology last night after comments he made about new recruits to Fianna Fail's frontbench sparked a sexism storm.
Mr Rabbitte, the party's justice spokesman, said some female members of Micheal Martin's frontbench could have been plucked off Grafton Street.
He said Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, an FF candidate in Dublin Central, and Averil Power, who is running in Dublin North-East, were like extras in a movie.
"You might as well wander down Grafton Street and see if you can meet a couple of good looking women and say: 'Would you ever mind coming up for the photograph'," the Dublin South-West TD said on 'Today with Pat Kenny', on RTE Radio.
Mr Rabbitte last night said: "I made a flippant remark aimed at highlighting the absence of women candidates in the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party, and if anybody took offence I apologise."
But his half-hearted apology sparked complaints to radio call-in shows. And he was accused by FF of having an "Andy Gray approach to women", in reference to the Sky Sports presenter sacked last week after getting caught making sexist comments.
Mr Rabbitte said the women were appointed "purely" to give them a profile and Mr Martin went for two people who were not TDs to "put a sprinkling of women in the photograph".
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said: "I didn't hear what the justice spokesperson said but (he) can always be relied upon for a colourful take."
Ms Power (32), who is her party's spokesperson on political reform, described Mr Rabbitte's comments as "unfair" and "an insult".
"I have no doubt that Micheal's decision to give me this position reflects my experience and my suitability for the job," she said.
"The lack of women in Irish politics is a serious issue. It is a real shame that when women are given important jobs on their own merits, they have to deal with sexist comments from Pat Rabbitte. Such comments certainly won't encourage more women to enter politics.
"Pat Rabbitte loves to appear on the media and lecture people about a new politics, but his Andy Gray approach to women shows that all he's about is empty soundbites and smart phrases."