Gerry Adams has defended using the N-word in a tweet about film Django Unchained in which he compared the struggle against slavery in the US to the plight of Irish nationalists.
The Sinn Fein president said he had either been misunderstood by those who had taken offence at his use of the term, or they were misrepresenting the post.
The offending tweet about the Oscar-winning Quentin Tarantino film appeared on his profile late on Sunday night.
It said: "Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy N*****!" Although the tweet was removed swiftly it provoked a furious reaction.
The republican later issued a statement in which he said attempts to suggest he was a racist were "without credibility".
He said: "I am opposed to racism and have been all my life.
"The fact is that nationalists in the north, including those from Ballymurphy, were treated in much the same way as African Americans until we stood up for ourselves.
"If anyone is genuinely offended by my use of the N-word they misunderstand or misrepresent the context in which it was used. For this reason I deleted the tweets."
Mr Adams said that anyone who had seen the film, which stars Jamie Foxx as the emancipated protagonist, Django, and Christoph Waltz as his ally, and was familiar with the plight of nationalists in the north until recently "would understand the tweet was not meant to insult".
"My tweets about the film and the use of the N-word were ironic and not intended to cause any offence whatsoever," he said.