Sinn Fein says it will not remove a former MMA fighter who now stands as one of its councillors after he was forced to apologise for his remarks about Ireland’s prime minister.
Former UFC flyweight Paddy Holohan – who was known as “The Hooligan” – said his comments about Leo Varadkar had been “misinterpreted” after saying he would prefer a “family man” to be taoiseach.
Mr Varadkar – who is gay – said he had accepted Mr Holohan’s apology, while Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the councillor would not be removed after saying sorry.
In a recent episode of his podcast, Mr Holohan attracted controversy for saying Ireland needed someone running the country “that knows what it’s like to have kids”.
He added: “I know what it’s like to collect my young fella from school so I know what school time traffic is like.
“When I’m making decisions, I can have an experience of it and bring that into the equation.
“The man that is a family man, that goes to work, looks after his kids, has come up through the system, has experience, maybe is a solicitor as well so has that experience – that’s who should be running the country.
“Someone who knows what the masses of people are going through.”
Following the comments, Sinn Fein said Mr Holohan should apologise and withdraw the remarks, which were not the views of the party.
Mr Holohan later apologised in a Twitter post and said his comments were “not meant the way they have been portrayed”.
He wrote: “I would like to apologise as my comments may have offended people as I of course did not intend to do so.”
Following his apology, Ms McDonald said she would not remove Mr Holohan as a Sinn Fein councillor, saying: “People in the public domain… when you make a mistake you apologise for it.
“When you mis-speak, when you make a mistake or when you call offence, you apologise for the remarks and I think that was the correct thing to do and the reasonable response.
“We have been very active in respect of not just marriage equality and LGBT rights and we pride ourselves as an organisation that is open and inclusive and Paddy knows that and he is part of it.”
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said he understood Mr Holohan had apologised, adding: “That’s good enough for me.”
The Irish PM said: “In terms of the wider issue, I think anyone in Ireland who’s 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’s been a lot worse for many other people.”
Voters will go to the polls in Ireland on 8 February after Mr Varadkar this week called a general election.
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