Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was canvassing in Galway city when he was asked about comments made by Senator Catherine Noone in which she described him as “autistic”.
During a media scrum Mr Varadkar said:
“…but you know, it’s not about me. I just think that we all need to be very aware and very respectful of people who have autism and 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, you know, we have more ASD units than ever before, more special needs assistants than ever before, more special classes than ever before and also we provided €2million this year for an autism awareness campaign, to educate the public better about understanding what autism and autism spectrum is.
“And we know that isn’t enough…but it is, it’s a good start and we’re going to build on it.”
Asked if Ms Noone should be sanctioned by Fine Gael, he said:
“No, like I say, she’s withdrawn her remarks in full and she’s apologised to those people she’s offended and that’s good for me.”
When it was put to him that Sinn Féin councillor Paddy Holohan had been suspended, over comments he made, and that “surely a suspension is warranted”, Mr Varadkar repeated that Ms Noone had apologised, withdrawn her remarks and that that was “good enough for me”.
He was asked by one journalist how he felt personally about the comments, while another asked if he is still encouraging people to vote for Senator Noone who is running for a seat in Dublin Bay North.
He said: “I encourage people to vote for all of our Fine Gael candidates. Richard Bruton and Catherine Noone are candidates in that constituency.”
Asked by another journalist if he’ll canvass with Ms Noone, Mr Varadkar shrugged and said: “It’s not on the schedule yet but I’m sure I will at some point.”
Earlier: Not Literally [Updated}