An Irish senator is to write to autism organisations after having to apologise for calling the Taoiseach autistic.

Fine Gael General Election candidate Catherine 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.

Asked about Ms Noone’s comments on Wednesday, Tanaiste Simon Coveney described them as “offensive, ignorant and wrong”.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Donall Farmer/PA)

“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.”

Meawnhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said Sinn Fein’s 22 billion euro spending plan would “destroy jobs” and again ruled out going into coalition with them in the next government.

Sinn Fein proposes that, if elected, it would increase public spending to spend an additional 22 billion euro by 2025.

It also pledged to give away 2.4 billion euro in tax reductions every year, and raise 3.8 billion euro in tax increases every year.

Micheal Martin criticised the spending plan and said, if implemented, it would threaten the Irish economy.

“Have you seen their General Election manifesto? They would destroy jobs in this country,” he told RTE radio on Wednesday.

“Now we have to do it again, in terms of small to medium-sized enterprises, the bread and butter of this economy.

“People who set up companies who employ 15 people, 20 people, 50 people. That’s who I want to represent.”

“Just look at the Sinn Fein manifesto, it will destroy jobs in this country with that manifesto.

“You can not raise taxes by four billion euro without it having an impact on ordinary people.”

He again ruled out going into Government with Sinn Fein and said he “would stick to his word” on the issue.

“What you underestimate is the depth and the strength of opposition to Sinn Fein within the Fianna Fail party and among the grassroots and among people who still remember what happened.

“People within Fianna Fail resent the legacy of Sinn Fein in terms of the gardai (Irish police) that were attacked and killed and the army.

“People come up to me and they say that,” he said.

General Election Ireland 2020
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)

“What’s worse is Sinn Fein has never fully apologised for that.

“They endorse it and they want to change the narrative, and they want to shove it down everybody’s throat that it was a just war and so on.

“There are people in my party that tell me unequivocally they would never accept going into government with them and then you add to their record in Northern Ireland where they collapsed the institution for three years.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said in response: “We won’t take lectures from the party that wrecked the economy or the one that made ordinary people pay.”

Speaking to reporters in Clane in Co Kildare on Wednesday, Mr Martin accused Sinn Fein of trying to “wipe out” small businesses out with their economic plan.

“Why would someone grow their business if they are going to be clobbered to an extra-ordinary degree by the kind of taxation proposals that Sinn Fein are proposing.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael pledged to increase the current universal payment of 80 euro per month to 400 euro 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 euro 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 euros in new investment,” she said.

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