Donegal-based presidential election candidate Peter Casey has come under fire over his comments on Travellers during the first televised debate featuring all six candidates.
The businessman stood over his claim that Travellers aren’t an ethnic group during last night's debate.
“We have so many wonderful nationalities here, it’s wrong to single out one particular ethnic group differently,” he said.
He has faced calls to withdraw from the race after he said Travellers are people camping on someone else’s land.
The candidates, current President Michael D Higgins, Senator Joan Freeman, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada, and businessmen Sean Gallagher, Peter Casey and Gavin Duffy, took questions from broadcaster Pat Kenny on the Virgin Media One show.
Candidate Sean Gallagher accused Mr Casey of making a racist comment during the show.
The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan says he fundamentally disagrees with Peter Casey's comments about Travellers.
Councillor slams comments
Meanwhile Donegal independent councillor Michael Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig has attacked the comments.
“It is difficult to find words to describe the despicable nature of presidential candidate Peter Casey’s scandalous and slanderous reference to the Traveller community,” he said.
“That such an offensive and inaccurate view of our fellow citizens and country men and women is held by anyone in Irish society is in itself appalling. That such vile nonsense is propagated by a person contesting the highest office in the state is truly shocking.
“Questions must surely now be asked about those who endorsed his candidacy. How did they deem him suitable for president? What checks did they carry out if any into his outlook and what are they now doing to repair the damage they have facilitated by endorsing Peter Casey?
“The Casey soundbite is worryingly similar to that of right-wing populism spreading cross Europe and the United States at present. For all our sakes, we must ensure that he does not profit by his outrageous statements.”
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