Irish presidential candidate Gavin Duffy admits his “good friend” Peter Casey’s views on Travellers do represent some people in Ireland.
Mr Casey, who said that Travellers were not an ethnic minority, but “camping” on other people’s land, stood by his comments on a televised debate on Wednesday night.
Mr Duffy, who appeared on Dragons’ Den with Mr Casey and considers him a good friend, said he was shocked at the comments, but they represent a populist view.
“Regardless of how low you are in the polls, I think it’s a type of desperation that we would do without,” Mr Duffy said.
“When you go a populist line, it’s called populist because there are people who will say, ‘What he said is right’ because you’re playing to fears rather than bringing out the best in us.”
Mr Duffy added he believed Traveller people who watched the debate would be “disappointed”.
During the debate, the studio audience clapped when Mr Casey insinuated none of the candidates would like to live next door to Travellers.
“I wasn’t surprised by it,” Mr Duffy said.
“I think the applause was a frustration with overt political correctness, I wouldn’t read into it that all those people who clapped hold something against the Traveller community.
“It’s important that we accept the Traveller community and accept and acknowledge their differences.
“Travellers go through life experiencing discrimination and I believe Peter Casey is dragging us in the past, and I’d be a president trying to bring us into the future.”
He added that he did not believe Mr Casey had any political foresight, and was “making it up as he goes along”, and despite being good friends, Mr Casey never told him he was running for president.
Mr Duffy said that although he thought Sean Gallagher would be a competent president, “every utterance from him is a mindfulness meandering”.
He added: “He must have been practising since he was 12 to be a robotic-type president.
“I still don’t know the real Sean, to be honest with you.”
Mr Duffy has been critical of fellow candidates Liadh Ni Riada and Mr Gallagher’s push for a border poll, and said with Brexit looming, now is not the time, but does believe he will see a united Ireland in his lifetime.
“I think it makes sense for a 32-county island, but a poll found that four out of five unionists would prefer to risk the peace in favour of having a hard Brexit, so in that sense I think Sean Gallagher is suffering from premature articulation,” he said.
“In the next four or five years I don’t see the timing right for a border poll.
“I think at times, people in the Republic have a stronger border mentality than anything else.
“People are out of touch, and don’t understand it. There is a serious lack of awareness of what life must have been like growing up during the Troubles, and what concerns me now, 20 years on there are people who have forgotten.”
The vote will take place on October 26.
Recent polls show current President Michael D Higgins on track for a second term in office.