THE globally renowned National Geographic organisation has changed the way it refers to Ireland . . . no longer calling it a "British Isle".

National Geographic, which is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world, took the decision to change the way they refer to Ireland after receiving a complaint from an Irish-American lobby group.

Fr Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus group, complained when he noticed that the print and online version of National Geographic's 'Travel Catalog 20082009' had a page advertising its May and July guided tour "Exploring the British Isles" that listed Ireland as part of the British Isles.

After spotting the "absurd error" McManus said: "Who wants to go with a travel company that is so geographically confused and disoriented? National Geographic claims Ireland is in 'the British Isles', and proceeds to list the places on its tour of Ireland: Skellig Rocks/Dingle Peninsula, Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher and Co Donegal.

"Northern Ireland is not even mentioned thereby making it impossible for National Geographic to try to make the argument that the North 'is British'. Therefore, they have simply no excuse for its absurd error."

McManus also complained that the catalogue had been introduced by the National Geographic president "who bears the proud name of John M Fahey".

The Sunday Tribune has learned that on 23 January, Fahey replied to McManus informing him that National Geographic had "revised" the way it referred to Ireland in its online information and would make similar changes in future print editions. It will now refer to 'the British and Irish Isles'.

He concluded his letter to McManus: "It's our sincere hope that National Geographic Society can quickly be restored to your good graces, as well as those of St Patrick, and anyone else who was concerned we had lost our way. It would warm my heart! !"

McManus told the Sunday Tribune, "John Fahey is a classy guy. I commend him on his quick and appropriate action.

"Now Irish-Americans can continue to admire National Geographic without cognitive dissonance."

The latest furore over the term "British Isles" comes little over a year since Irish school book publishers, Folens, decided to omit all references to "the British Isles" from its widely-used school atlas.

Until last year, the glossy world atlas had a section of 31 pages with maps and information, all of which showed Ireland under the heading of the British Isles.

In the past the term has been used in a purely geographical sense to make clear Ireland's proximity to Britain.

In October 2005, after Folens announced that they were scrapping the term, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern stated: "The term 'British Isles' is not used by the Irish government and has no official status . . . the term was not recognised in any legal of intergovernmental sense."

It was also reported at the time that the Irish Embassy in London had been urged to monitor media in Britain for "any abuse of the official terms as set out in the Constitution of Ireland and in legislation".