Catherine Noone remarks were 'offensive, ignorant and wrong', says Coveney

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone's description of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as autistic was "offensive, ignorant and wrong," Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

Catherine Noone remarks were 'offensive, ignorant and wrong', says Coveney

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone's description of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as autistic was "offensive, ignorant and wrong," Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

"They caused offence to many people. She has apologised for those comments and I know she hopes that the families offended by them will accept that apology," he said.

"She is following up on that to try and reinforce that point by writing to organisations and the families concerned.

"This should not have happened. As deputy party leader I want to apologise for the fact that it happened.

"The apology is very sincere and comments like that type are not acceptable. I hope we can put that issue to bed."

Senator Noone is to write to autism organisations after having to apologise for calling the Taoiseach autistic.

Ms Noone was quoted as describing Leo Varadkar: "He's autistic like, he's on the spectrum, there's no doubt about it."

On Tuesday she apologised, withdrew her remarks and Mr Varadkar accepted her apology and said she would not face any sanctions.

Mr Coveney was speaking at Fine Gael's launch of its proposals to provide greater supports for parents relying on childcare.

Fine Gael has pledged to increase the current universal payment of €80 per month to €400 per month for all parents with children under three.

Unveiling a number of childcare payments proposals, the party has also said they will increase the number of weeks available under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme from 38 weeks to 42 weeks.

Fine Gael said that €150 million will be invested to increase the threshold and subsidy under the National Childcare Scheme.

The party has also pledged to extend parental leave for both parents to nine weeks each in the first year.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Employment Regina Doherty said Fine Gael wants the economy to start working for people.

"We are commissioning an extra €400 million in new investment," she said.

It's the most expensive time in childcare for any family that has children under three.

Speaking at the launch, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: “With the right policies in place, the Irish people rebuilt the economy, piece by piece, from the ruins of the crash.

"We are now in a position whereby more people are working than ever before and economic growth is on a sustainable footing. We cannot take this progress for granted.”

He also said the Government is making available more money to help childcare providers who say they are at “breaking point” and in threat of having to close down.

“We believe that investment in childcare is crucial as we secure this economic growth.

"We have already increased funding in childcare by almost 250% from €274m in 2015 to €638m this year. Under our Plan, in 2025, the childcare budget will be over €1bn.

"This investment is to help parents with the costs but also continue a reform of the sector to ensure future sustainability,” he said.

Jobs Minister Heather Humphreys said: “Jobs and a strong economy are the lynchpins of a fair society. They are two sides of the same coin.

"We have a plan to create 200,000 additional new jobs by 2025, meaning a job for everyone who needs one.

"Childcare is a crucial part of this plan and we will also provide more opportunities for remote and flexible working arrangements, which are so important for working families.

"We are the only party committed to rolling out high speed broadband to every person in the country, a key enabler of opening up all of this potential.”

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