Nova Scotia - A Halifax Canadian politician said on Tuesday that he was ready to mail apologies to about 300 Irish people in the province of Nova Scotia for reciting a prayer that suggested the Irish be held over the mouth of hell.

Mark Parent said he had read out the prayer at a parliamentary meeting in Nova Scotia in a bid to persuade squabbling committee members to co-operate rather than fight each other.

The idea backfired when the local Charitable Irish Society complained. Parent said he was ready to mail apologies to all 300 members of the society.

"I made the offer and now I am waiting for the society to contact me again. I am ready to apologise for any hurt I may have caused. I feel like walking around with a bag on my head," said Parent.

"There was never any intention on my part to insult the Irish. My wife is Irish."

Parent, dismayed by political bickering at the standing committee on human resources which he chairs, opened last week's session with a prayer on selfishness he said he had found in an old book of quotes.

"But if Ye have any favours to bestow or any good land to give away, give it to Thine own peculiar people, the Scots," read the prayer.

"Make them members of parliament, rulers among Thy people, but as for the ungodly Irish, take them by the heels and shake them over the mouth of hell, but Lord, don't let them fall in."

Parent insists that critics misunderstood him.

"My point was to show that while we have overcome ethical and religious differences, politically this is the way we still feel about each other," he said.

And will he be reciting prayers to any future committee meetings?

"I'm going to be very cautious in future," he said.

- Reuters