UK & World News
Peter Robinson Apologises For Muslim Comments
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has publicly apologised for his controversial comments about Muslims.
Speaking last week, he said he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance but would to "go down the shops for me".
He made the comments while defending a sermon by Pastor James McConnell, in which the pastor branded Islam "satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in hell".
The First Minister met leaders of the Muslim community in Belfast on Tuesday night after claiming his words had been misinterpreted.
He said he had made a "face-to-face, man-to-man apology".
"I made it very clear to the people present tonight that I apologise for any offence that I might have caused," said Mr Robinson.
"The very last thing that I would have ever have in my mind would be to cause anyone hurt or distress or to insult them and I make that publicly clear as well in the clearest possible terms.
"I cannot spend the rest of my life apologising but what I can do is spend the rest of my life building the united community that I believe we want in Northern Ireland."
Mr Robinson, speaking to the Irish News, had defended Pastor Connell's right to criticise Islam, but was widely castigated for his comments.
He told the newspaper he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance, or those engaged in terrorist acts.
But he added: "Would I trust them to go down the shops for me? Of course I would. Would I trust them to do a number of other lifetime, normal day-to-day issues? There's no reason why you wouldn't."
The controversy has erupted at a time when police figures show race hate attacks in Northern Ireland are on the increase.
Two Pakistani men were attacked in Belfast at the weekend in an apparent racist attack.