The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has described as 'unwarranted and unhelpful' remarks by DUP leader Ian Paisley criticising President McAleese, who is visiting Northern Ireland.

Mr Paisley said that by taking police protection on her visit while refusing to go to PSNI stations, President McAleese showed her deep hatred of Northern Ireland.

The North Belfast MP, Nigel Dodds, also said that the President's attitude towards protocols and her ability to cast them aside when visiting the North was reprehensible.

A spokesman for President Mary McAleese has said she would not be responding to Mr Paisley's remarks.

Mr Ahern said the President's visit to Belfast followed all the normal protocol and procedures.

He added that President McAleese had done more than anyone else to reach out to both communities in the North.

This morning, Mrs McAleese was on a visit to Mr Dodd's constituency as part of a one-day visit to Northern Ireland.

On her arrival at Belfast Airport, President McAleese was met by Lady Carswell, the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, and the official representative of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

President McAleese helped launch a new programme for the 174 Trust, a cross community project in north Belfast.

During her visit to the project off the Antrim Road, the President travelled in a convoy of cars provided by the PSNI. She made no reference to the attack on her by Dr Paisley.