Grieving relatives of road accident victims have branded Finian McGrath's remarks about garda enforcement of a drink-driving crackdown as an "insult" and "slap in the face".
There were demands for the Cabinet minister's resignation and an apology to the families of victims in the wake of the extraordinary comments.
He claimed in an interview in a Sunday newspaper that gardai have become politicised and have been "over the top" in the implementation of tougher drink-driving laws.
He also claimed officers are blaming Transport Minister Shane Ross for the laws when they are stopping motorists.
Mr McGrath last night apologised unreservedly to the families and gardai for the remarks.
He withdrew his comments on Sunday and said they were "wrong" in the midst of a furious response from Government colleagues and gardai.
However, people who have lost loved ones also criticised Mr McGrath.
Christina Donnelly, who lost her son Brendan (24) in a 2009 crash caused by a drunk driver, said she was "incensed".
She said Mr McGrath's suggestion that the implementation of the drink-driving law was over the top is "an absolute insult" to bereaved families. She said Mr McGrath was "not fit to hold office".
Aisling Reid from the Parc Road Safety Group lost her cousin Karl Robertson (28) in a hit-and-run incident. She described the comments as a "slap in the face" and also called on Mr McGrath to resign.
She said it was "ridiculous" to suggest gardai had an ulterior motive in enforcing the law and that retracting the remarks doesn't change the fact Mr McGrath made them.
She said he needed to apologise to families.
Fellow ministers sought to draw a line under the controversy yesterday.
Richard Bruton, Mr McGrath's Dublin Bay North constituency rival, said: "Like any of us he can make mistakes and he's been man enough to admit that this was a mistake."
Mr McGrath last night apologised unreservedly.
He said he was aware his comments "caused hurt", but this was never his intention and "families and victims suffering the aftermath of drink-driving have always been my priority".
He said he voted for, and fully supports, the law brought in by Mr Ross, which automatically disqualifies motorists found to have consumed alcohol.
"I will continue to support all road safety initiatives and measures," Mr McGrath added.