Autism should never be used as a slur or a negative. 1 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
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) January 28, 2020
News editor at the Times Ireland edition Ben Haugh, who clarified the conversation with Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone – in which she referred to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “autistic” – before going to print, just spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One about the article.
He explained that Ms Noone knew she was being recorded when she made the comments to reporter Brian Mahon while he was walking with her between houses during a canvass last Friday.
Mr Haugh said Mr Mahon was upfront with Ms Noone that he was recording the conversation and was using a dictaphone app on his iPhone in order to quote Ms Noone accurately.
Fiona Ferris, deputy head of AsIAm, an autism charity and advocacy group, told Mr O’Rourke that the charity will not be accepting Ms Noone’s apology.
Asked what more Ms Noone can do or say, in light of the group’s refusal of her apology, Ms Ferris said:
“I would say that what she needs to do is take action based on what she said and the inaccuracy of it and you know, she should be trying to take the steps to educate herself about what autism is. But I would also be encouraging people who have candidates who come to their doors to be asking about, you know, what is in their manifesto to contribute towards further support and further understanding of autism.”
Listen back in full here
From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Senator Catherine Noone; statement from Ms Noone this morning
In The Times Ireland edition.
Ben Haugh and Brian Mahon report that Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “autistic” while she was being asked about his performance on the Virgin Media One head-to-head debate with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last week.
Ms Noone has since apologised and withdrawn her comments (see statement above).
Ms Noone described Mr Varadkar as a “very good politician” but accepted that he was “a bit wooden” and was making efforts to improve.
“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 inbetween bits,” she added.
She said the Fine Gael leader was “extremely bright” and a “very decent guy”.
…When contacted by The Times for clarification yesterday, Ms Noone initially denied that she used the word “autistic”. When informed that the reporter had a recording, she said she did not mean the word literally.
….Ms Noone then attempted to give examples of potentially offensive words that could be used out of context, such as “special” and “n***er”. She quickly clarified that she would never use the N word, and said that it was a bad example.
Statement pic via Gavan Reilly