Clinton's Remarks Called "Insensitive," Apology Demanded

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - Calling President Clinton's recent remarks that the two sides involved in the Irish peace process as being "like a couple of drunks" who can't leave the bar "insensitive," Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson demanded the president apologize.

The president, speaking at the dedication of the new American embassy in Ottawa on Friday said "I spent an enormous amount of time trying to help the people in the land of my forebears in Northern Ireland get over 600 years of religious fights and every time they make an agreement to do it, they're like a couple of drunks walking out of the bar for the last time. When they get to the swinging door, they turn right around and go back in and say 'I just can't quite get there.'"

Nicholson, himself of Irish descent, told he found the remark offensive and demanded that Clinton apologize. "As an Irish American and one who has suffered the effects of alcoholism in my own family, I think his remarks are offensive and he should apologize personally for them," said Nicholson. The GOP chief had previously disclosed his father's alcoholism and the conflicts it created within his family while growing up in Iowa.

Nicholson said the president's comment showed "insensitivity and a lack of understanding" about the situation in Northern Ireland. "His concern ought to be about peace in Ireland, not about how much of his valuable time has been spent."

House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) told "If such an unconfirmed and unseemly remark was made then it's certainly inappropriate and it is sobering to those of us who have been seeking a peaceful resolution to the troubles in the North."

After the comments were made the White House said the president meant no offense by his remarks. Clinton made the remark while discussing ethnic and religious differences in the Middle East, Rwanda and other parts of the world.

The audience at the dedication reportedly laughed at Clinton's remarks. National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said in Washington that Clinton was expressing his frustration at all sides in the Northern Ireland dispute. Leavy maintains that Clinton didn't mean to cause offense to any group of people.

Clinton, according to Leavy, is clearing frustrated that both sides can't seize this moment of peace and make progress in implementing the Good Friday accords."