Fianna Fail Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has said she would like to apologise “face to face” to the Travelling community for controversial tweets sent nine years ago.
She has said she is more than happy to meet representatives of the Traveller community, saying she would welcome the opportunity to explain her position.
Speaking for the first time since the controversy erupted over tweets she posted up to nine years ago, Ms Clifford-Lee said what she did was “wrong” and she was “sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
Earlier, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty and members of her own party called on her to meet with Pavee Point, the Traveller representative group and apologise to them for any offence caused and the Dublin-FIngal by-election candidate said she is more than willing to do so.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ms Clifford-Lee said the tweets about travellers and foreigners do not represent the person she is today and her record in standing up for minorities is there for everyone to see.
I just want to say, you know what happened to totally, totally inappropriate wrong, and I'm very sorry for offending people. And I realized that I have caught the fence. And I'm very, very sorry
“It was way before I was involved in electoral politics, and in no way reflects my attitude and my true attitude to minority issues is reflected in what I have done and what I have had to say since I was in a position to influence things,” she added.
“And looking back now I am horrified because at the time I had no understanding of their impact. You know, I've apologised and I am extremely sorry from the bottom of my heart but I guess I can do no more than that,” the Senator has said.
In terms of meeting Pavee Point, she said: “Absolutely, I would love an opportunity to meet face to face and apologise face to face.”
Tonight, tweets surfaced from 2011 of Ms Clifford-Lee using the word ‘pikey’. Ms Clifford Lee used the word "pikey" on three separate occasions on Twitter in 2011.
Earlier, her party's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan desrcribed Ms Clifford-Lee's tweets as “silly” and “inappropriate” but said she should not lose her political career over them.
“Well I've only had an opportunity to look at the tweets that have been in the media over the past couple of days, I think all of them were inappropriate the ones I saw,” he said.
“I thought they were offensive, particularly to traveling people and however, She's apologised for those, I've got to say, having worked with her in the justice and equality area for the past three and a half years. She's always advocated the line that Fianna Fail has put forward in terms of inclusive diversity and equality. So she obviously made silly statements,” he added.
But Mr O'Callaghan said he believes in redemption and she should not lose her job, despite calls on her to resign.
“However, she made those comments six or seven years ago. I believe in redemption, I believe in change I believe that she has now resiled from that and she's apologised for them. She said they were wrong. Everyone here recognises they were wrong. I would just be concerned if because of something inappropriate that somebody said, seven or eight years ago, that their political career would end on,” he said.