Opposition leader Tony Abbott has come under fire for telling an Irish joke during a recent speech.
Speaking to the Liberal Party faithful on June 25, Mr Abbott said that the Gillard Government “was a bit like the Irishman who lost 10 pounds betting on the Grand National and then lost 20 pounds on the action replay”.
The Embassy of Ireland in Canberra subsequently complained about the remark.
Following this, the Irish Echo understands that Mr Abbott’s office contacted the Embassy to express “regret”.
A spokesperson for Mr Abbott said the Opposition leader would not go into a discussion on the matter.
“The matter has been settled with the Embassy directly,” he told the Irish Echo.
But the remark is still up on Mr Abbott’s website.
Leading members of the Irish community in Australia have roundly criticised Mr Abbott’s words.
Prof Ronan McDonald, Chair in Modern Irish Studies at the University of New South Wales, said it was an an error of judgement.
“The ‘stupid Irish’ joke might get a laugh in a Bradford comedy club circa 1973, but seems astoundingly ill-judged coming from an aspiring world leader in 2011,” Prof McDonald said.
“Maybe Tony Abbott should employ some of the recent Irish arrivals to write some of his speeches in future. They could probably do with the work. And he could definitely do with the help,” he added.
Former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, was also critical of the joke. The Dublin-born mental health advocate said Mr Abbott’s remarks reflected poorly upon him.
“I grew up with Irish jokes. They always reflected poorly on the perpetrator. [It] weakens the core argument too,” he said.
In February, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologised to the city’s Irish-American community after he told the American Irish Historical Society that when walking by its building he often sees “a bunch of people that are totally inebriated”.