A top HBO executive has been forced to make an embarrassing apology to the people of Belfast and the city’s new Lord Mayor.

HBO boss Michael Lombardo was forced to climb down after SDLP Mayor Nichola Mallon defended the city, which hosts cast and crew from the hit series.

Lombardo had claimed those staff found it difficult to live in Northern Ireland during their extensive shooting schedule.

But he has now withdrawn his remarks and offered the Mayor and the Belfast public an apology.

His climbdown came after Mallon had defended her city, saying it has been transformed and has much to offer holidaymakers.

She told the Belfast Telegraph newspaper: ‘I don’t want to get drawn into attacking HBO, who are doing a lot for Northern Ireland, but I think Belfast is a very vibrant city.

“We can see from our visitor numbers that it is going from strength to strength. There is a lot about Belfast which is there to be showcased and celebrated.”

Lonbardo, the network’s president of programming, told the paper it was not his intention to cause offense.

He had originally said: “Belfast is not the most cosmopolitan of cities to spend half the year.

“It’s a little bit of a personal challenge; I don’t think they contemplated when we initially found our location in Belfast, what that meant for them personally.

“I don’t think they have a hard time, but the good news is work keeps them busy, let’s just say that.”

Now Lombardo has been forced to back down and withdraw the remarks, which offended the Northern Ireland government who provides HBO with millions of dollars in grants.

Lombardo has now said sorry for his choice of words and spoken of the positive role Belfast has played in the global success of the hit series.

He said: “I meant no offense to the city of Belfast and offer my apologies.

“My intention was to recognize the tremendous commitment of Dan and David to the series, which has resulted in a significant amount of time away from their families, and my words were chosen poorly.

“They have never expressed anything but positive remarks about their experiences in Northern Ireland.

“'Game of Thrones' could not have become the show it is today without the incredible partnership between HBO and Belfast.

“From the government’s co-operation, to the hundreds of workers on set to the scenic beauty, Northern Ireland lives in every episode of the series.”