Former Unionist politician denies being racist after tweet about Leo Varadkar

John Taylor in 1998 Photo:

Update 11.45pm: Former Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has denied being racist after calling Ireland's Taoiseach 'the Indian'.

The peer, who is no longer a member of the UUP, acknowledged his remark about Leo Varadkar had caused "upset and misunderstanding" so he was withdrawing it.

Mr Varadkar was born in Ireland. His father is from India and mother from Ireland.

Mr Taylor, 79, stirred controversy in a tweet on Thursday evening as he commented on a political story involving Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

He wrote: "Simon Coveney is stirring things up. Very dangerous non statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian."

The tweet was met with condemnation on social media.

Mr Taylor later tweeted: "In Twitter one is restricted to a limited number of words and so for shorthand I used the term Indian for the new PM in Dublin.

"This has caused upset and misunderstanding and so I withdraw it. I am no way racist and accept that Varadkar is 100 percent Irish Citizen."

Earlier: Former Unionist politician criticised for calling Varadkar 'the Indian' in tweet

A former UUP MP has come under fire for tweets made earlier this evening in which he referred to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as 'the Indian'.

Responding to reports that Simon Coveney would like to see a united Ireland in his political lifetime, John Taylor said: "Simon Coveney is stirring things up . Very dangerous non statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian"

The remarks were met with criticism.

Now life peer Baron Kilclooney, Mr Taylor has offered a number of excuses for his tweet.

The former NI Cabinet Minister said he had difficulty spelling Varadkar's name, and had not yet learned it because he is "a new politician".

The decision to use 'the Indian' has been labelled as "lazy", "tactless", and "disgraceful".

Mr Taylor also questioned whether Varadkar was "100% Irish".

Senator Catherine Noone responded "Disgraceful comment John. Leo is 100% Irish as you well know. The mind boggles."

The 79-year-old said the comments were "certainly not racism but shorthand for an Indian surname which I could not spell".

"I am certainly no [sic] racist as my past confirms," he added.

He said he was using shorthand due to Twitter's character limit.

However, the original 116 character tweet did not approach Twitter's new 280 character cap.

Despite earlier tweets in which Varadkar was spelt correctly, Mr Taylor said tonight he thought it was spelt 'Veradkar'.

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