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'Good enough for me': Varadkar says he accepts apology from FG senator who described him as 'autistic'

Catherine Noone released a statement this morning apologising for the remarks and saying she withdrew them.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he accepts an apology from one of his candidates who described him as “autistic”.

Fine Gael general election candidate Catherine Noone apologised this morning for describing the Taoiseach as being “on the spectrum” and “autistic”. 

Speaking in Galway this 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“She has withdrawn her remarks and apologised and, you know, that’s good enough for me.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, never before more special classes, never before.

I set aside two million this year for an autism awareness campaign to educate the public better about understanding (autism).

The Times, Ireland Edition, first reported the senator’s comments, which she made while canvassing in her Dublin Bay North constituency.

“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 said.

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.

When contacted by The Times about her remarks, she initially denied using the word “autistic” but she was informed there was a recording. She then said she did not mean the word literally.

This morning, Noone released a statement apologising and withdrawing her comments:

“I unequivocally apologise and withdraw all of my remarks, as reported by TheTimes.ie, which were completely unacceptable,” she said.

My choice of language was inexcusable and wrong. I am truly sorry. I will not be making any further comment.

In a statement, deputy CEO of autism charity and advocacy group AsIAm, Fiona Ferris said the stereotyping of Autism “unfortunately leads to many autistic individuals feeling stigmatised”.

“Autism is a complex, invisible condition that has an extensive clinical diagnostic process. We need to be careful not to engage in ‘doorstep diagnosis’ because we cannot definitively tell whether or not someone is on the spectrum without a full assessment,” she said.

Ferris said autistic people “can of course empathise, just as non-autistic people can”.

“However that empathy may be communicated or even processed differently.

“AsIAm is working on a national level to educate wider society about how autistic people experience the world, and a large part of that is dispelling myths or misconceptions like this which increase the stigma surrounding the condition. We would encourage politicians to learn more about autism and support AsIAm’s #HappierHealthierLonger election pledge.”

- With reporting from Michelle Hennessy and PA 

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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