Louth TD Gerry Adams has been widely condemned for using a racial slur in an off handed remark on his Twitter page.
The Sinn Fein leader has since apologised for using the 'n' word in a reference to the Quentin Tarantino 'D'jango Unchained film about black slavery in America.
He admitted his controversial tweet - later removed from his Twitter account - was 'inappropriate' but he moved to defend his comparison of the treatment of Irish nationalists to African Americans.
The tweet which read 'Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy N*****! also saw him referring to the main character as 'an uppity Fenian.'
In what he described as 'an unqualified apology' Deputy Adams said:
'Unfortunately I used the 'n' word. I realised it was a mistake and I deleted it. I apologise for any offence caused.'
He added that he used the term - widely recognised as a racial slur - in a 'ironic' way.
'It was wrong and I am sorry I used it because it offended people. I accept it was not an appropriate word to use, as it was a word used against people of colour in a derogatory way.'
But the TD said he 'stood by my substantive point' which drew comparisons between the struggle of African American people and the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
Gerry Adams was born in Ballymurphy, a republican heartland of west Belfast.
He was one of the founders of the civil rights movement.
Responding to the criticism of his remark, he added:
'Attempts to suggest that I am a racist are without credibility. I am opposed to racism and have been all my life.'
'I have been a very, very long time supporter of the anti apartheid movement,' said Deputy Adams.
He also described himself as 'a great admirer of people who stood up for themselves, people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.'
He added: 'There are parallels here with the struggle of the African American movement.'
Despite his explanations for tweeting the remark, he said 'I do regret using the word, I made a mistake and I am sorry.'
But his words have drawn criticism from within his own party, with Sinn Fein Louth councillor Tomas Sharkey issuing the following statement on the controversy.
'Gerry's tweet was wrong. He should not have made this comment. The 'n' word is offensive and abusive.
'There are many important matters for us politicians to be working on.
I hope that people will accept Gerry Adams apology for the remark and continue to work with Sinn Féin representatives on the issues that matter in Louth.'