Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he accepts an apology from one of his candidates who called him “autistic”.
Fine Gael General Election candidate Catherine Noone apologised on Tuesday morning for describing the Taoiseach as being on the spectrum and autistic in a recent article.
Speaking in Galway on Tuesday morning, he said: “She has withdrawn her remarks and apologised and, you know, that’s good enough for me.
“Well, you know, it’s not about me. I just think that we all need to be very aware… I’m very respectful of people who have autism, people who are on the autism spectrum and we need to understand that those terms should never be used in a pejorative way at all.
“And this is a government that has prioritised autism more than ever before for special needs assistance. I set aside two million this year for an autism awareness campaign to educate the public better about understanding the autism spectrum.”
When asked if Ms Noone would face any sanction from the party over her comments, Mr Varadkar said: “She has apologised and withdrawn remarks and that’s good enough for me.”
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Ms Noone said she “unequivocally apologise(s) and withdraw all of my remarks”.
Ms Noone was quoted on The Times Ireland news website as stating that Mr Varadkar is “autistic”.
The quote continued: “He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.”
Ms Noone said that her remarks are “completely unacceptable”, and that “my choice of language was inexcusable and wrong. I am truly sorry”.
“I will not be making any further comment,” she said.
She made the comments while canvassing with a reporter from The Times Ireland.
“If I do say so, I am much more natural than he would be. I’ve been in rooms with him and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s naturally shy. But he’s actually a very good politician,” she said.
Minister for Health Simon Harris tweeted: “Autism should never be used as a slur or a negative.
“One in 65 people can be on the autistic spectrum – including someone I know and love dearly.
“As a society, we need to become much more aware in relation to autism and not use casual stereotypes.”