By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA in Washington DC
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has apologised after making an “ill-judged” remark during a speech in Washington DC in what is being seen as an apparent reference to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
While reminiscing about his experience as an intern in the United States, Mr Varadkar made a reference to possible concern about being an intern in the US capital at the time.
Mr Varadkar made the remarks during an address to the Washington Ireland Programme, which helps young people develop career skills and which Mr Varadkar took part in 2000.
The Taoiseach’s comment came hours after attending an event honouring women’s role in the Good Friday Agreement, during which he praised Hillary Clinton for her sustained involvement in Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said in a statement following the event: “At the Washington Ireland Programme 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.”
It comes ahead of former US president Bill Clinton and Mrs Clinton taking a leading role in commemorations planned in Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next month.
The remarks were made at one of the lower profile events on the Taoiseach’s three-day itinerary in DC, taking place between engagements with senior political and business figures.
Monica Lewinsky was 22 and a White House intern when she and the then-US president Bill Clinton embarked on a romance in the 1990s.
She was pilloried for years after the scandal broke.
The affair almost forced Mr Clinton out of office and Ms Lewinsky has spoken about the devastating effect it had on her life in the years after.
Mr Varadkar sat beside Hillary Clinton at Thursday morning’s event at Georgetown University focusing on the role of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The Taoiseach’s controversial comments about interns later in the day came ahead of his meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday to mark St Patrick’s Day.
During a bilateral meeting the two politicians are expected to discuss the President’s planned visit to the island of Ireland next month.
Mr Varadkar is also set to thank Joe Biden for his administration’s support during the Brexit process.
The Taoiseach’s visit will culminate in a high-profile ceremony to hand over a crystal bowl of shamrocks to the US president at the White House.
Friday’s programme will start with a breakfast engagement for Mr Varadkar with US vice-president Kamala Harris.