Senator Catherine Noone, a candidate for Fine Gael has issued an apology for calling Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “autistic” during an election canvass.

The Times last night reported that Ms Noone, a candidate Dublin Bay North, said of Mr Varadkar “He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits”.

The paper also stated that the candidate had initially denied having made the comments, before being told there was a tape of her saying them.

Ms Noone  said she did not mean it literally. “I didn’t mean it in the sense of the actual illness or anything. I just mean he can be a bit wooden and lacking in empathy,” she said. “I shouldn’t have even said it in that way.”

She then went on to give examples of potentially offensive words that could be used out of context, including “special” and “n***er”, before clarifying that she would never use the n-word, and said it was a bad example, the paper said.

Autism awareness campaigners were critical of how Ms Noone used the word in a pejorative way.

In a statement this morning, Ms Noone said: “I unequivocally apologise and withdraw all of my remarks, as reported by theTimes.ie, which were completely unacceptable. My choice of language was inexcusable and wrong. I am truly sorry.

“I will not be making any further comment.”

However, some critics on Twitter felt that wasn’t enough.