A Fine Gael Senator has said she 'unequivocally apologises' for describing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as 'autistic'.
The remarks by Catherine Noone were reported by TheTimes.ie while she was canvassing in Dublin.
She made the comments after being asked about Mr Varadkar's performance on last week's Virgin Media head-to-head debate.
Mr Varadkar has been criticised for appearing to lack empathy on issues such as health and the homelessness crisis.
But in a statement on Tuesday, Senator 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."
The Taoiseach has said he is satisfied the Senator has withdrawn the remarks and apologised - adding that the apology is 'good enough' for him.
Mr Varadkar said: "I just think that we all need to be very aware and very respectful of people who have autism... people who are on the autism spectrum.
"We need to understand that those terms should never be used in a pejorative way, at all."
'Autism should never be used as a slur'
In an apparent response to Senator Noone's comments, Health Minister Simon Harris tweeted: "Autism should never be used as a slur or a negative.
"1 in 65 people can be on the Autistic Spectrum - including someone I know and love dearly.
"As a society we need to become much more aware in relation to Autism and not use casual stereotypes".
Autism should never be used as a slur or a negative. 1 in 65 people can be on the Autistic Spectrum - including someone I know and love dearly. As a society we need to become much more aware in relation to Autism and not use casual stereotypes
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) January 28, 2020
Fiona Ferris is deputy CEO of the autism charity As I Am.
She told Newstalk Breakfast the word autistic should not be used to describe a character.
"I think we need to be very careful with this kind of statement cause what we're seeing here is the word autistic to be used to describe a character.
"Not only that but some negative aspect of a character".
"Unfortunately many of the barriers that autistic people experience, they're not actually anything to do with the condition themselves - they're to do with the lack of understanding that comes back from society.
"Autistic people can of course empathise, it's just a case of that empathy might look or seem very different - or even be processed differently - to how most people expect.
"The word autistic isn't something we use to describe a character, it's actually a very complex condition that has to be diagnosed in a clinical setting.
"So this certainly isn't doing anything to contribute towards the work we're doing to educate wider society of how complex autism is".