An independent airline advert claiming the North was leaving British occupation behind in favour of increased Irish influence today sparked a furious row with unionists.
A website promoting Flybe said the North was drifting into the fold of the Republic – an assertion vigorously challenged by DUP leader Peter Robinson.
The airline operates a string of routes from Belfast to other parts of the UK and moved to distance itself from the controversial comments.
The Flybe-destinations.com site said: “Belfast and Northern Ireland more generally have put the troubles of British occupation behind them and increasingly come into the fold of the Republic (of Ireland) as a burgeoning city hoping to reinvent itself.”
The First Minister branded the phrase highly subjective and offensive.
“The language contained in this article isn’t what one would expect from a serious or professional organisation,” he said.
“Frankly, it reads like something one would expect to hear in a republican Easter commemoration address.”
Flybe serves London, Leeds, France, Belgium and Germany among 37 destinations.
The offending site is not operated by Flybe. It generates bookings and receives a commission.
A spokesman for Flybe said the airline had written to the website owners demanding the article’s removal and a review of descriptions of other destinations.
He added: “Flybe will investigate the content of any other website to ensure descriptions of Belfast are politically and culturally balanced.
“Flybe completely agrees with the First Minister that the article presents a politically biased interpretation of Northern Ireland’s recent history.”