SINN Fein president Gerry Adams should not have described unionists as b******s at a public meeting, his party colleague Martin McGuinness has said.
Mr Adams made his remarks in Enniskillen when he was asked about his party's relationship with the DUP in light of offensive comments one of its MLAs, Gregory Campbell, made about the Irish language.
The incident has further fuelled a war of words between the parties in the North ahead of the resumption of peace talks over flags, parades and legacy issues from the Troubles.
"There are people who don't want the nonsense that Gregory Campbell spouts . . . the bigotry," Mr Adams said at the event last night.
"But what's the point? The point is to actually break these b******s - that's the point. And what's going to break them is equality. That's what's going to break them - equality.
"Who could be afraid of equality? Who could be afraid of treating somebody the way you want to be treated. That's what we need to keep the focus on - that's the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy."
He was responding to remarks made by Mr Campbell at the weekend when he said the DUP will be treating Sinn Fein's "wish list" like toilet paper.
Louth TD Mr Adams later tweeted "Mea culpa", but said that equality is the only way to break "bigots", "racists" and "homophobes".
"Gerry shouldn't have said it and he did apologise and I think that is in stark contrast to others who have made much more offensive remarks and have not apologised," deputy first minister Mr McGuinness said this morning.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, he echoed Mr Adams' explanation for his remarks, saying they were in the context of people "who are homophobes, racists or sectarian bigots".
"But that doesn't excuse the use of the word," he added.
Meanwhile, IRA abuse victim Mairia Cahill has warned that more needs to be done on both sides of the border to bring sex offenders to justice.
Her warning came as she confirmed she had now supplied around 30 names to police in relation to suspected abuse incidents.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that a cross-border inquiry into sex abuse allegations against paramilitaries is now under consideration, but warned it could prove "very challenging".
Ms Cahill welcomed the proposed investigation but urged people on both sides of the border to contact police over suspected abuse incidents to ensure children are protected.
Ms Fitzgerald stressed that her priority now is ensuring that those against whom allegations have been levelled do not continue to pose any type of threat to children.