FORMER President Mary McAleese has slammed the New York Times newspaper after it published a 'crass' article linking the Berkeley deaths to a stereotype of the Irish as drunken party-goers.
The article said the J1 visa programme "that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland".
They went on to say the Berkeley deaths came after "a series of high-profile episodes involving drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments in places like San Francisco and Santa Barbara".
In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Ms McAleese (pictured right) said the paper "should be hanging its head in shame at how outrageously and without the remotest evidence it has rushed to judgement on those deaths".
"Shame on you," the former President - who was herself a J1 student in San Francisco in the early 70s - wrote.
The New York Times agreed it appeared insensitive, but said it wouldn't remove the offending article from its website.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said this morning she believed the newspaper team were "couching their words very carefully" in their apology. "I would like to go a step further myself and say that I agree it was insensitive and that the complaints are very valid," she said.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, she said she agreed the newspaper "made some pretty bad mistakes".
"It was explained to me that... it was kind of a second day approach story. I don't think that was an excuse and I don't think that it was appropriate, but that's the reason for it. [It was an effort to] You know, to go more deeply into another angle or to examine the visa programme.
"I think the New York Times made some pretty bad mistakes with this story and, yes, I think it was insensitive and not handled properly," Ms Sullivan said.
"I think the Times institutionally and the editors and reporters were couching their words very carefully [in the apology]. I definitely know [the article] added to the great pain of this tragedy and that's extremely unfortunate and I personally feel very sorry about that.
"I've emailed Adam, the lead reporter on the story, and I've spoken directly to the national editor Alison Mitchell, they are two of the key people. Adam readily admits that he handled it poorly and I think everyone agrees there are things in the story that should never have been there.
"As a mother of two children in their early 20s, I do understand, or can begin to understand perhaps, how painful this is. I think this is very unfortunate and I am very sorry.
"I have made such an apology and I cannot tell the Times institutionally what to do, it's not in my role."