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Parents of children with learning disabilities slam Varadkar over 'slow learners' remark

One parent said Varadkar had allowed his hatred of Sinn Féin to cloud his judgment when he likened the party to ‘slow learners’ in a May interview.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR came in for sharp criticism from the public after controversial comments labelling Sinn Féin as “slow learners”, complaints released under the Freedom of Information Act have found.

In letters, parents of children with learning disabilities attacked the Fine Gael leader for what one said was a “vile disgusting ignorant remark”.

In a newspaper interview in May, Varadkar had made the controversial remarks saying that sometimes watching Sinn Féin was like “politics for slow learners”.

The Taoiseach said it echoed comments made by the late Seamus Mallon about the Good Friday Agreement calling it ‘Sunningdale for slow learners’.

In defending the remarks, a spokesperson said at the time that it was clear Varadkar was referencing a “well-known and oft-quoted remark” from the past.

One parent said Varadkar had allowed his hatred of Sinn Féin to cloud his judgment.

In an email, they wrote: “My beautiful daughter is a slow learner! Not because she can’t learn but because the Irish education system can’t provide a suitable place for her.

“I think you need to choose your words a bit better – I understand you despise Sinn Féin but it shows a total ignorance and lack of compassion towards those in our society who have disabilities.”

Another parent said they were “absolutely appalled” by the comments saying it was a “disgrace” and a “letdown”.

“I fight every single day for any sort of support for my child, both public, but mainly funded by us, his parents, privately,” said their email.

“You have shown why our children are not a priority in this country by the language you used! Hang your head in shame!”

One “enraged” member of the public said they had a pain in the chest with the anger they had felt after hearing the comments.

They wrote: “How dare you belittle my children and label them. You have no idea what it’s like to struggle and fight for your children.”

In one email, the Taoiseach was told he should be ashamed of what he had said, that the comment was “utterly harmful and not acceptable”.

It said: “I’m hoping that you will learn from this that everybody, not only those with a quick intellect, which you are obviously very proud to have, has a place in our society, a place of equal importance and respect.”

Another accused Varadkar of trying “to get one over” on Sinn Féin at the expense of people who were struggling.

“My daughter was born [and] after her birth, doctors called us into a room, said there was a problem with her brain and she would be SLOW,” they said.

“Imagine to hear that … about your … child. She has severe physical and intellectual disabilities and to hear someone mocking and using that term … is beyond disgusting.”

One person said the Taoiseach’s arrogance knew “no boundaries” and that the terminology left a lot to be desired.

Another said there had been a history within Fine Gael of using slurs in the past and that it could become the legacy of the party.

They wrote: “We are trying to create an inclusive and multicultural Ireland and all you are doing is alienating the most vulnerable members of our society.”

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