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‘Hurtful and extremely unhelpful’: Irish Society for Autism weighs in on Catherine Noone’s comments

by Erin Lindsay
28th Jan 2020
catherine noone

Fine Gael candidate Catherine Noone has apologised for her comments about the Taoiseach

The Irish Society for Autism has issued a statement in response to Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone calling Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “autistic”.

Noone was quoted on The Times Ireland website as saying “he’s [Varadkar] autistic, like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.” She made the comments while canvassing with a Times Ireland reporter.

When contacted by the Times for clarification, Noone said: “I didn’t mean it in the sense of the actual illness or anything. I just mean he can be a bit wooden and lacking in empathy.”

This morning, Noone issued an apology for her comments, saying, “my choice of language was inexcusable and wrong”.

Challenging and complex

The Irish Society for Autism responded to the comments, saying that autism is “challenging and complex, and cannot be reduced to simply a lack of empathy”.

“Off the cuff, thoughtless remarks can be very hurtful and increase the stress and isolation that some individuals with autism and their families experience. When dealing with autism it is imperative to respect the dignity of individuals with the condition and their families.”

The Society went on to recommend legislation for people with autism to be prioritised and said an Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill would “promote awareness, and education, improved autism services and a comprehensive strategy for the future”.


Speaking on the campaign trail in Galway this morning, Varadkar said the fact that Noone has apologised and withdrawn the remark “is good enough for him”.

He said she would not face any suspension from Fine Gael.

Featured image: Oireachtas TV

Read more: ‘We’re restricted’: Irish mother on the importance of sensory-friendly workshops

Read more: My child and autism: ‘I felt sick knowing that something was wrong but I didn’t know what’

Read more: Laois woman leaves €30 million to Irish charities in her will

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