Casey trying to use my sexuality against me, claims Walsh
A Fine Gael election hopeful has accused Peter Casey of trying to use her sexuality against her as they go head-to-head for a seat.
Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh said her experience on the campaign trail has been mostly positive - but cited a few exceptions, including her exchanges with the businessman. She described herself as "really surprised" and "quite disappointed" that he has accused her of going after the "pink vote".
Ms Walsh also claimed Mr Casey had unfairly tried to rule her out of the contest on the grounds of age.
He has said the Mayo woman is "very inexperienced".
"She'll be a good politician one day. I think she's obviously latching on to the vote of the LGBT community and other things like that," he said.
Ms Walsh told the Irish Independent her rival was "grabbing headlines".
"I don't talk about my sexuality. People see me as more than my sexuality," she said.
The pair are locked in a battle for the final seat in the Midlands North-West constituency along with Fianna Fáil's Brendan Smith. Ms Walsh's running mate Mairead McGuinness, Independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy are tipped to take the first three seats in the European election.
Fine Gael is now pumping massive resources into Ms Walsh's campaign in a bid to get an unexpected win.
The party made a decision yesterday to allow her to campaign in Kildare, which was originally reserved for Ms McGuinness, a sitting MEP.
At the start of the campaign, Ms Walsh was restricted to Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. But last week, she was also allowed into Longford and Westmeath.
She described being called a "cheeky upstart" by one voter in the midlands and said Mr Casey has been particularly critical, but insisted being a young person was an advantage.
One of her policy promises is to try to secure more funding for the Erasmus programme.
In a clear dig at Mr Casey, who finished second in last October's presidential election, she said her message to voters in the final hours will be that "populism is alive and well".
"It's in this country. If we send four voices that do not represent our communities it'll be a mistake. I want people to realise I'm in with a shot," she said.
Ahead of voting, Mr Casey is ramping up his call for tighter immigration controls.
He said Ireland "cannot afford" people who are here illegally and "welfare tourists coming from EU countries that are not working and not prepared to help out".