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Women see red at Kenny gaffe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny managed to put his foot in his mouth at a conference on how to elect more women with a patronising remark about a female minister's "flaming red hair".

Just a day after Finance Minister Michael Noonan caused offence with his comments on emigration being a lifestyle choice, Mr Kenny delivered another gaffe that went down badly.

Wandering off script, the Taoiseach said Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch was a "doughty fighter" as evidenced by her "flaming red hair".

The reference about a female politician's appearance at an event aimed at encouraging more women to run "went down like a lead balloon", according to a member of the audience in Dublin Castle.

Well-known broadcaster Olivia O'Leary, who was chairing the event, put Mr Kenny back in his place.

She said the fact Ms Lynch was one of two women TDs in Cork who didn't take a seat in the Dail from her father or her husband was more relevant than hair colour.

Mr Noonan also remained at the centre of storm over his views on emigration, with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore admitting he understood why people were offended by the remarks.

However, Mr Gilmore supported Mr Noonan, saying his comments were "somewhat overstated and misinterpreted".

He said emigration was mainly as a result of the economic conditions.

But Mr Noonan did not offer to apologise or withdraw his comments that young people are leaving the country for lifestyle rather than employment reasons.

He insisted that his comments on emigration and people choosing to move abroad were taken out of context.

Speaking at a Limerick Chamber of Commerce event last night, Mr Noonan told the Irish Independent that his remarks were fully balanced and on the record for all to read.

"My comments yesterday were taken out of context," he claimed.

"The full interview is up on the website and if you want to check it, you will see that was reported wasn't a full version of it and that is all I have to say about it."

He added: "I can't control what people publish, but I know that my comments were absolutely balanced and absolutely correct.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton also said Mr Noonan's comments that emigration for some was a lifestyle choice "were taken out of context".

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar last night dismissed the furore as a storm in a teacup.

He claimed the minister was simply speaking about his own children and the media had twisted his words in "desperation".

Mr Noonan did receive support from the unlikely quarter of Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary.

"Noonan is dead right, but it is, of course, not politically acceptable to say this. I went abroad for a year and my friends went abroad for a year.

"This idea that emigration is like young people boarding a potato ship in 1845 never to be seen again is bullsh*t -- they are all coming home at Christmas and Easter," he said.

Irish Independent