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Pavee Point director accepts apology from Lorraine Clifford-Lee, praises her 'positive approach'

Lorraine Clifford-Lee said she was unable to to say whether other tweets or comments might emerge.

Lorraine Clifford-Lee apologised for the tweets.
Lorraine Clifford-Lee apologised for the tweets.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Nov 15th 2019, 1:34 PM

FIANNA FÁIL SENATOR Lorraine Clifford-Lee has met with Pavee Point and apologised for the tweets in which she used the words “pikey”, “Traveller” and “knacker” in a derogatory manner. 

Clifford-Lee, the party’s candidate in the Fingal by-election, apologised for her remarks, which were posted online in 2011.  

She met with representatives of Traveller organisation Pavee Point earlier today. Co-director of the group Martin Collins said on RTÉ’s News at One that the Senator gave a “very sincere and heartfelt apology” and acknowledged the “huge hurt and offence she has caused” the Traveller community.

“She recognised that her tweets are of a racist manner,” said Collins.

Clifford-Lee repeated her apology after the meeting earlier today and said she is “sorry from the bottom of [her] heart”. 

“I am truly sorry for the offence I have caused. Sometimes we say things when we don’t understand the impact of the words we use,” she said in an interview with RTÉ Radio One earlier today. 

The Fianna Fáil representative said that she didn’t know whether other tweets or comments on social media might yet emerge. 

“I don’t know is the straight answer because obviously this was a long time ago before I was engaged in electoral politics,” Clifford-Lee said. 

The representative phoned Martin Collins from Pavee Point a few days ago to arrange a meeting to apologise for her tweets which Collins said is unusual among politicians who have made anti-Traveller comments in the past.

He said Clifford-Lee took a “more positive approach” by saying what she did was wrong and that others have “dug their heels in and compounded the situation” rather than apologising. 

Collins added that he was worried about the “rise in right-wing populism and nationalism” in Ireland that he has noticed over the past few years. 

“In recent months, we have heard very racist comments in relation to Nigerians and direct provision asylum seekers,” said Collins.

Earlier today, Clifford-Lee said the tweets were sent “many years” before she was engaged in electoral politics.

“It in no way reflects my opinion on minority issues,” she said. “People make mistakes and it’s the recognition of those mistakes and it’s how you act.”

Clifford-Lee said that she had worked “very hard” on minority issues since entering politics and had supported the Traveller education bill and the granting of ethnic status to Travellers.

She is a by-election candidate for Dublin Fingal after the Dáil seat was vacated by Clare Daly, who was elected as an MEP in May. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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