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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C Leo Varadkar.
# ableism
Taoiseach criticised for 'offensive' language after 'slow learners' remark about Sinn Féin
A spokesperson said that the Taoiseach’s remark was a reference to Seamus Mallon’s famous turn of phrase about the Good Friday Agreement.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has been criticised for using “very offensive language” after he compared Sinn Féin policies to ‘politics for slow learners’ in a recent interview. 

Speaking on Saturday with Áine Kerr today, Sinn Féin senator Lynn Boylan said that Varadkar needs to “reflect of the use of the phrase slow learners.” 

The Taoiseach was commenting specifically on Sinn Féin’s policies on the Special Criminal Court, and Ireland’s place within the European Union, in an interview he gave to the Irish Examiner. 

A spokesperson for Varadkar said that his “slow learners” remark was “was clearly using the well known and oft quoted remark of Seamus Mallon than the Good Friday Agreement was Sunningdale for slow learners”. 

Disabilities groups have also criticised the Taoiseach’s use of language. 

Prominent advocacy group Access For All Ireland said: “This is a horrible ableist slur to use to denigrate anyone. Using anyone’s disability whether physical or intellectual as a put down impacts us all in the disabled community. Once again we are the butt of the joke, shame on you”.

Boylan said that the Taoiseach would be better served reflecting on his own popularity, and delivering on housing in general, and for asylum seekers. 

“Sinn Féin develops its policy at Ard Fheis, we always have, we’ve always engaged with European Union critically, you can be supportive of Ireland’s membership of the European Union, but you can also criticise various policies of it, there is nothing wrong with that,” she said.

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway, who also spoke on RTÉ Radio this morning, said he “wouldn’t agree at all” with Boylan’s assessment of Varadkar’s remarks. 

“Anyone who knows Leo Varadkar knows that he wouldn’t insult anyone like that, he was actually probably paraphrasing Seamus Mallon’s  comment about the Good Friday Agreement. 

“People who have intellectual disabilities aren’t referred to as slow learners anymore, so people, you know, it’s like if someone said to me, even the blind would see that coming, do I take offence to it because I’ve an eyesight impairment? No, absolutely not,” he added. 

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