Politics

Varadkar accepts apology from SF councillor Paddy Holohan over controversial comments

LEO Varadkar has accepted an apology from Sinn Fein councillor Paddy Holohan over comments he made about the Taoiseach.

Earlier today, Mr Holohan apologised for comments he made about the Taoiseach, claiming they were “misinterpreted”.

The South Dublin County Councillor faced backlash for comments he made about the Taoiseach on his No Shame podcast.

In an episode with director Terry McMahon, the Tallaght South councillor spoke about Mr Varadkar and admitted he has a lot of “quarrels with this man”.

“Leo Varadkar came out to the public, now not that he has to, but why did he come out, if he wasn’t going to come out as a minister, as a doctor, as being gay, why did he come out two years before the [marriage] referendum?” he asks.

“Publically, as gay? If you’re not going to do it back then, why do it now?”

The councillor adds that it “bugs him to death” that Mr Varadkar leads the country.

“He’s so separated not even from society now, but he’s so separated from the history of this country,” he said.

“I’m for immigration, I’m for bringing people into the country.”

He said that Mr Varadkar’s grandfather was not part of the “history of this country”.

“Leo Varadkar’s blood obviously runs to India you know so his great grandfather is not part of the history of this country, you know what I mean? Now, Leo obviously is, he’s an Irish citizen but his passion doesn’t go back to the times when our passion goes back to,” he added.

The councillor said that he wants a “family man” to run the country on the podcast.

“We need people running the country and not against Leo or anything like that, but to me I want a family man running the country,” Cllr Holohan said.

“I want somebody that knows what it’s like to have kids, maybe hopefully boys and girls so when you’re creating the policies of all of the stuff that’s going to go on, they are like, right, it makes sense, I know what it’s like to collect my kids from school so I know what school time traffic is like,” he said.

“So when I’m making decisions, I’m kind of, I can have experience and bring that into the equation.

“Leo, as a person, he kind of is we talked about it last week that he had the ability to be one of the greatest leaders ever ,” he said.

“If you pick out a man who goes to work looks after his kids, has come up through the system, has experience maybe is a solicitor as well.

“That’s who should be running the country, who knows what the masses of people are going through.”

Cllr Holohan has since apologised for any offence his comments caused, claiming that they were “misinterpreted”.

“I would like to apologise as my comments may have offended people as I of course did not intend to do so,” he wrote on social media today.

“My comments have been misinterpreted and not in anyway [sic] meant the way they have been portrayed.”

Mr Varadkar responded to the Sinn Féin councillor’s remarks saying: “I understand that he has apologised in the last few hours and you know that’s good enough for me.”

He added that there’s a “wider issue”.

Mr Varadkar said: “I think anyone in Ireland who is from a minority background – whether mixed race or gay or lesbian – has experienced some form of racism or homophobia in their lives.

“I am fortunate in that I haven’t received too much of that, I know it has been a lot worse for a lot many other people.”

Mr Varadkar said: “One of the things I would like to do if I am re-elected as Taoiseach is to run another cross-Government campaign against racism..

“We just need to raise awareness of the issue and make sure that we have a properly united country, whether you are a man or woman, no matter what background you come from, whether you are a member of the travelling community or not, or who you love.

“None of those things should matter in the kind of society I believe in.”

Mr Varadkar said parties should dump candidates if they engage in anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Fine Gael deselected Verona Murphy in Wexford after she made controversial remarks linking immigrants to Isil.

He said: “Every party has to have standards and we have learned from experience in that regard in my party and we have revised our party pledge on foot of that.”

Returning to Mr Holohan’s remarks he said: “But at the same time, I think if somebody makes a remark that they regret and they apologise and they withdraw it, I think that should be accepted.

“And I accept in this case the apology has been made.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that she is also “satisfied” with his apology.

Speaking to reporters at the launch of the party’s stance on state pension age in a community centre in Cabra this afternoon, she said that she will not be asking the councillor to withdraw from the party and that apologising was the “gracious” thing to do.

“I think that Paddy has apologised for the remarks and that that was the appropriate thing to do, I think all of us know that every citizen and every person is entitled to run for public office in this country and to aspire to the office of An Taoiseach.

“That’s the position, Paddy has apologised and of course that was the absolutely correct thing to do.”

She said that Cllr Holohan is “frustrated” that his comments gave the impression that he holds “other views”.

“I think that Paddy is probably frustrated at the fact that he is known to be a very approachable, very open minded and a very kind person and unfortunately the remarks that he has made have given the impression that he holds other views,” she said.

“And I imagine, even though I can’t speak for him, that that’s what he means in terms of the interpretation.”

She was asked if this will cause hurt to the party in the lead up to the general election.

“I’m here to talk about pensions and obviously we’re not doing that,” she said.

“But look, it is what it is, the campaign is three weeks long.

“Where hurt or offence is given, the gracious thing to do and the correct thing to do is apologise for it and I am satisfied that he has done that,” she added.

She said that Sinn Féin “insisted” Cllr Holohan apologised for his remarks.

“We insisted that he apologised, he has apologised.

“It’s not a matter of being happy [to apologise] or otherwise, if you’ve made a mistake you accept that you’ve made a mistake.”

“The best of people can make a mistake and can speak out of turn and can cost hurt,” she added.

Sinn Féin earlier urged the councillor and former MMA fighter to withdraw the remarks.

“Paddy Holohan has made comments on his podcast that have caused offence, and are quite obviously not the views of Sinn Féin,” said a spokesperson.

“He should apologise and withdraw these remarks.”

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