Leo Varadkar apologises for sinning priest remark

Leo Varadkar Image copyright EPA
Image caption Leo Varadkar's remarks were criticised by members of his own party as well as political rivals

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar has apologised for likening the leader of the opposition to a sinning Catholic parish priest.

Mr Varadkar made the comments about Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin in the Irish parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Martin had criticised the taoiseach on his public spending record.

He said Mr Martin reminded him of a priest who tells us "how to avoid sin while secretly going behind the altar and engaging in any amount of sin".

Before making his apology, Mr Varadkar had been criticsed by members of his own Fine Gael parliamentary party and other opposition politicians.

The controversial remarks had featured on radio phone-in programmes, with some saying the taoiseach had tarred all priests with the same brush and others arguing he was right because of recent controversies involving cover-ups of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

The taoiseach, who coincidentally met church and faith leaders 24 hours after his remarks, apologised for "offending people" he "never intended to offend".

"I have tremendous respect for priests, for the sacrifice that they give in the lives that they lead," he said.

"And I have tremendous respect for people of faith. You know, it didn't come out the way I intended it and sometimes these things happen."

Mr Varadkar indicated he will formally withdraw the remarks from the Dáil (lower house of the Irish parliament) record next week.

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