The Taoiseach has criticised an opposition candidate for her old tweets, calling them “racist, misogynistic and bodyshaming”.
Posts made in 2011 by Fianna Fáil’s by-election candidate in Dublin-Fingal, Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, have emerged in which she made derogatory remarks about Travellers.
She wrote that a “knacker” had stolen her car, that clothes she had seen looked like they were from a “traveller wedding”, repeatedly used the word “pikey”, and said a “black Brazilian dwarf with ginger hair” was sitting beside her on public transport.
Ms Clifford Lee has apologised for the tweets, claiming the backlash is a smear campaign against her, and said she would meet the Traveller community to apologise for her comments.
Fianna Fáil said party chiefs will not be disciplining her.
Canvassing on Thursday with James Reilly, his own party’s candidate for the election, Mr Varadkar criticised the opposition.
“I’m disappointed at the response from Fianna Fáil so far, the response has been inadequate. Those were tweets that were sent by a qualified solicitor, a woman in her 30s, a woman actively involved in Fianna Fáil at the time,” he said.
“Just describing them as inappropriate isn’t enough, we should say what they were: misogynistic towards women, racist towards Travellers and classist, and also body shaming, and I don’t think they are becoming of someone who is Fianna Fáil’s equalities spokeswoman.
“I’m not sure what it says about Fianna Fáil’s commitment to equality.”
Asked about his own party colleague Emer Higgins, who expressed her “delight” in election literature that plans for a Traveller housing scheme in her area had been scrapped in 2014, Mr Varadkar said he had spoken to Ms Higgins on Wednesday night, and she accepted it was wrong.
“This was an issue back in 2014, she accepts fully that she was wrong to use the word ‘delighted’ about that decision not to go ahead with that accommodation,” he added.
“There’s nothing new to say, this issue arose years ago and I dealt with it then.”