A SINN Féin councillor who has been accused of racism after comments he made on a podcast referencing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Indian heritage has said his comments were 'misinterpreted'.
Councillor Paddy Holohan was speaking on his No Shame podcast when he made the controversial comments referring to Mr Varadkar, saying:
"He’s so separated, not even from society now, but he’s so separated from the history of this country.
"Leo Varadkar’s blood obviously runs to India. His great-grandfather is not part of the history of this country.
"Now Leo obviously is," the MMA fighter-turned-politician said.
"He’s an Irish citizen but his passion doesn’t go back to the times when our passion goes back to."
Following large-scale criticism from politicians, the general public and his own party Sinn Féin, who demanded that he apologise for the remarks, Mr Holohan took to Twitter where he claimed the comments had been misinterpreted.
"I would like to take a minute to address comments that were made on my podcast," the Tallaght man wrote.
"Firstly, I would like to apologise as my comments may have offended people as I of course did not intend to do so [sic].
— Paddy Holohan (@PaddyHolohanMMA) January 16, 2020
"My comments have been misinterpreted and not in anyway meant the way they have been portrayed.
"Thank you to the people that know me and have supported me. And understand that I would never make such remarks."
Mr Holohan had also drawn controversy for saying in another episode of the podcast that he would prefer a "family man" to run the country, which many took to see as a slight against Mr Varadkar, who is gay.
"We need people running the country — and not against Leo — but to me, I want a family man running the country," Mr Holohan said.
"Someone that knows what it’s like to have kids, maybe hopefully boys and girls, so when you’re creating the policies and stuff that’s going to go on, that you’re like right, it makes sense."
Mr Varadkar, whose father was born in Mumbai and whose mother is from Waterford, was asked about the remarks today while campaigning in County Longford and said that he forgives the councillor.
"I understand that he has apologised in the fast few hours and that's good enough for me," Mr Varadkar said, according to RTÉ.
Mr Holohan, whose constituency is for Tallaght West, is not running in the upcoming General Election.
Mr Holohan has been suspended from Sinn Féin with immediate effect.
Party leader Mary-Lou McDonald called his comments "beyond offensive".