Wednesday 28 September 2016

'Looked like a derro... just missing rusty supermarket trolley' - Charity boss won't say sorry to Mick Wallace over appearance comments

Published 12/06/2016 | 21:27

Jonathan Irwin of the Jack and Jill Foundation. Photo: Tony Gavin
Jonathan Irwin of the Jack and Jill Foundation. Photo: Tony Gavin
Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Tom Burke

The founder of one Ireland’s best-known charities says he will not apologise for comments he made about Mick Wallace’s appearance.

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Jonathan Irwin of the Jack and Jill Foundation mocked the Wexford TD’s attire on Twitter, using an Australian term for “hobo” to describe him.

Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Tom Burke
Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Tom Burke

While his comments sparked ire and outrage among Mr Wallace’s supporters on social media, Mr Irwin said he did not intend to remove the tweet.

Asked if he had any regrets, Mr Irwin said: “Absolutely not”.

“It’s such an honour to be elected as a TD,” he told the Herald. “You don’t have to wear a tie, but you have to make some effort.”

“Look at it this way – he doesn’t look like a banker or a sports star,” he added. “It’s just arrogance.”

Shortly after Mr Irwin’s tweet, Mr Wallace responded via a Facebook post, claiming that Mr Irwin “never mentioned [his appearance] when ringing my office looking for a vote in the Seanad of this year”.

Mr Irwin admitted that he did contact Mr Wallace to seek his support for his Seanad campaign, but added that he was also in touch with “600 or 700 others”.

“It’s a slightly elderly man saying: ‘Gosh, I’m so cool’,” he said.

“I’m sure he is a brilliant man with an excellent brain, but I think more people would take him seriously if he dressed better,” he added. “Would you employ someone who dressed like that?”

In the tweet, Mr Irwin said he had “bumped into” Mr Wallace on Kildare Street last week and was shocked by what he was wearing.

“Looked like a derro just missing rusty supermarket trolley,” he wrote. “Obviously no respect for himself.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “derro” as Australian slang for “a vagrant, especially one who is dependent on alcohol.”

Mr Irwin said he did not regret the use of the word in the tweet.

He added that he had not spoken with Mr Wallace at the time, saying the TD was on the phone.

“I just got a shock when I saw him,” he said. “He had trousers on him that had a hole in them.”

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace was not available to respond to Mr Irwin’s comments to the Herald.

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