Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has roundly condemned comments by presidential candidate, Peter Casey, about Travellers.
And he has effectively asked the Irish people not to vote for him next week.
Mr Varadkar’s scathing remarks came at the close of the second day of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels in reply to direct questions. He said he had heard reports of Mr Casey’s comments, which were originally made on an Independent.ie political podcast.
Mr Casey insisted Travellers were “basically people camping in other people’s land,” that house prices drop in areas where they settle, and that they are “not paying their fair share of taxes in society”.
The Taoiseach took the unusual step of issuing a very strong denunciation of these remarks and of Mr Casey.
“His remarks were very divisive and I think they were largely designed to attention for him and his campaign,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I think they’re really regrettable and I hope, that when the people of Ireland go out to vote next Friday, they will give Mr Casey and anyone who holds those views, a very clear message,” the Taoiseach added.
Earlier today, Mr Casey paid a visit to the houses built for Traveller families in Tipperary.
Mr Casey addressed the media outside the barricaded gates of the development of six houses at Cabragh Bridge outside Thurles, but made no attempt to meet any of the families, claiming he did not want to "invade their privacy."
Barry McCarthy, who lives at Cabragh Bridge with his wife Melissa and their six children, aged 14 down to seven months, said his children had been left feeling "very frightened" by Mr Casey's comments.
"The kids in school are learning not to be racist," added local resident Gerard Reilly.
Representatives of Travellers groups claimed Mr Casey was 'taking a leaf out of Trump's book' with his comments.
In a statement, they said that "as proud Traveller families living peaceably at Cabragh Bridge, Thurles for four generations, we want to express our horror and disbelief on the media campaign being waged against us and, it seems, against every Traveller family in Ireland".
"Everything that has been written and reported about us and our accommodation situation is based on lies and misinformation," they said.
"Today we find that we are now being used again and are at the centre of what seems to be a hate campaign in social media - begun by the racist remarks made by a presidential candidate.
"We want the hateful and misinformed media campaign being waged against us to stop," they added.
As Mr Casey and his wife, Helen, arrived at Cabragh Bridge and gazed at the houses, he noted: "Solar panels," under his breath.
Asked if was going to go in, he said no. "It's bonkers," he said.
When asked if he was here to apologise or explain himself, he said he was here to explain his position.
"My position is that the proclamation said we should cherish all the children equally. It doesn't say we should cherish some children more equal than others."
"Once I am President, I wouldn't be able to say anything but now that I can I think it's just wrong, downright wrong."
Asked if he was going to meet the families he said: "No, they know I'm here. If they want to meet me they can come down.
"I think it's wrong to invade somebody's privacy."
Asked what he wanted to achieve, he said he wanted to "bring attention to this. People need to stand up and say something is wrong....there's people sleeping in the streets of Dublin tonight."
Pointed out to him that there was a legal process underway, he said it seemed to be taking a long time.
He claimed the support he has received has been 'overwhelming'.
Put to him that the families had lived here for 4 generations and if he accepted that they had legal rights to live in this area, he said: "no, I don't."
And when asked why he had turned his focus on these six houses when the state is failing to build thousands of houses to solve the housing crisis, he said: "I don't have the ability to do that. This is just an example and it's a really... they want stables for horses and an acre of land."
Put to him that the families do have horses, Casey sighed:"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
After he had left, protesters walked peacefully down the road carrying placards with slogans like; "We want a President that represents all of Ireland."