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New York mayor sorry for 'drunken Irish' joke

Ireland has once again hit the international headlines for all the wrong reasons.

But this time there's no mention of banking, abandoned horses or emigration.

Instead it's our reputation for hard-drinking that has become the focus of attention after New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg was forced to apologise for comments he made to an invited audience of prominent Irish-Americans. Mr Bloomberg told guests at the American Irish Historical Society's headquarters that he often sees drunks in the building.

"I live in the neighbourhood, right around the corner. Normally when I walk by this building there are a bunch of people that are totally inebriated, hanging out the window, waving," he said.

The comments were met with a mixture of laughs and loud groans from the audience attending the launch of a book charting the 250-year history of the St Patrick's Day parade in New York.

As a few boos rose amid the laughter, Mr Bloomberg continued: "I know that's a stereotype of the Irish but nevertheless we Jews from around the corner think this."

An audio recording indicates that most of those present took the remarks as a joke, but afterwards a number of prominent Irish-Americans failed to see the funny side.

The comments were "highly, highly offensive to any Irish person," according to the chairman of the St Patrick's Day Parade committee, John Dunleavy.

"I don't think he would say a joke like that to any other ethnic group.

"It was totally uncalled for and unbecoming of the mayor," Mr Dunleavy told the 'Daily News'.

New York's top Irish- American official, City speaker Christine Quinn, said the comments were surprising and inappropriate, "given the mayor's history of support for the Irish community".

With less than a month to go before New York hosts one of the biggest St Patrick's Day parades in the world, Mayor Bloomberg was quick to issue an apology during a press conference yesterday.

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"Now, I was talking about a party that they have every year on St Patrick's Day where they sort of . . . it's traditional to hang out the window and yell and scream, and it's in good fun.

"I apologise, I certainly did not mean to offend anybody," the New York mayor added.

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