Varadkar apologises for ‘ill-judged’ joke about interns in Washington

Comment made as Taoiseach was ‘reminiscing about his time in Washington DC as an intern 23 years ago’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has apologised for making an “ill-judged” joke about interns in Washington at a function in the US capital on the eve of St Patrick’s Day.

Speaking at a Washington Ireland Program event on Thursday, Mr Varadkar remembered he was an intern in the city in the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency “when some parents would have had cause for concern about what would happen to interns in Washington”.

The comment had not been scripted in his speech, which referred to his time as a 21 year old working for Republican Congressman Jack Quinn.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar spoke at an event on celebrating “Women at the Helm” in politics, with former first lady Hillary Clinton among the attendees, at Georgetown University in Washington.


A spokesperson for the Taoiseach later said: “At the Washington Ireland Program event today the Taoiseach was reminiscing about his time in Washington DC as an intern 23 years ago. He made an ill-judged off-the-cuff remark which he regrets.

“He apologises for any offence caused to anyone concerned.”

In his speech prepared for the event, Mr Varadkar recalled: “When I undertook my own Washington Ireland Program experience in 2000, I was 21 years old, in my third year at Trinity College Dublin, and part of the first class of students from Ireland to participate in the programme. There were four of us from the Republic travelling to spend a summer in America with more than 30 students from the North. It was very much a learning experience and we learned as much from each other than from anything else.

“I was placed in former Congressman Jack Quinn’s office in the House of Representatives. Capitol Hill along with the other organisations the 2023 students will be in, are great training grounds for any young person hoping to enter the world of politics, public affairs and leadership.

“One of the reasons I believe the Washington Ireland Program works is because it recognises the importance of broadening perspectives - of how valuable that can be in fostering leadership, in nurturing the art of compromise, and in honing the political skills needed to make a difference. It’s good for young people to be exposed to new ideas and differences, to be challenged and to challenge themselves.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times