ASDA in Coleraine has been forced to remove a St Patrick’s Day card - emblazoned with the tricolour - because of complaints from local loyalists.

Some had claimed that the supermarket was being hypocritical following an earlier decision to remove a Royal Wedding DVD carrying a small Union Jack on its cover.

There was even talk on some social networking sites of loyalist shoppers boycotting the Ring Road store.

Now ASDA has responded to the furore by apologising for any offence and confirmed that the greeting card had been removed from sale.

An ASDA spokesperson told The Coleraine Times: “We do our very best to listen and respond to the needs of all our customers from across the community and this includes how they celebrate major holidays, events and special occasions.

“Our range of St Patrick’s Day cards has been very popular and some have sold out completely.

“Due to complaints about one particular card we made the decision to remove it from sale, but other St Patrick’s Day options are on shelf for customers who chose to celebrate this event,” she concluded

The row first erupted when a Glasgow Rangers fan posted his complaint on the football fan site, Rangers Media Forum, calling on others to ring the supermarket’s complaints department.

He said ASDA was “selling St.Pat’s day cards with tricolours on them but wouldn’t sell the Royal Wedding DVD in case it offended anyone and also removed bread from the shelves that had a small Union Flag on it.”

Before long the thread had been picked up by Twitter, Facebook and even by - Rangers’ opposite number in the world of online forums.

One local man who contacted ASDA claimed to have received a written apology from the store:

“Thanks for taking the time to contact ASDA about the St Patrick’s Day card you saw on sale in your local store,” said the reply.

“We always take pride in the products we sell and use the most reputable suppliers to provide us with quality products at low prices.

“I’m sorry if the St Patrick’s Day card with the Republic of Ireland stripes caused any offence. This certainly wasn’t our intention, the last thing we want to do is upset any of our customers with our products.”

The letter added that a representative from the Seasonal Buying Team had confirmed that the issue had been raised with suppliers and has now been removed from sale to prevent any further offence.

It concludes: “Once again, I’m sorry one of our products has caused you to be offended.

“I hope the actions I’ve taken will go some way towards restoring your faith in us at ASDA, and we’d be more than happy to welcome you into our stores again very soon.”