PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Peter Casey has said he is taking time out of his campaign to consider whether to continue in the wake of backlash over his controversial comments about Travellers.
The Dragons Den star and independent nominee, 61, has come in for severe criticism over remarks he made about the Travelling community earlier this week.
In a statement this morning, Mr Casey said he did not want the people of Ireland to elect him based on one statement.
He said: "In light of the events of the past few days, I am taking the weekend off from the campaign to think carefully about whether to continue in the race.
"I do not want the people of Ireland to elect me as President of Ireland just based on one statement I made.
"I want to be of service, and make a real difference. I have the expertise and ability to be an influencer. I want to connect people, at home and abroad.
"I know that my world experience and global views will make me a uniquely suitable candidate for President of Ireland – with drive, ability and energy."
— Paul Cunningham (@RTENewsPaulC) October 19, 2018
It comes after Casey claimed Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority because they are "basically people camping in someone else’s land" during an appearance on Independent.ie's 'The Floating Voter' podcast on Tuesday.
He added that Travellers were "not paying their fair share of taxes in society", before later sticking by his comments on The Pat Kenny Show debate on Wednesday.
His assertions were decried as racist by a number of his fellow candidates as well as Traveller groups such as Pavee Point, and there have been calls for him to withdraw his statement or drop out of the race for the Áras completely.
Speaking during Wednesday night's debate, Casey told the other candidates they were being "disingenuous" when they gave positive answers to a question on how they would feel about living near a halting site.
He also referenced an ongoing housing dispute in Co. Tipperary which has seen a Traveller family reject six homes built at a cost of €1.7 million, claiming the family had demanded two stables per home and a half acre of land for horses.
"You can’t please all of the people all of the time," Mr Casey responded when asked about the fallout over his comments.
"If you are offered a free house and a free home and you turn it down, I think, unless there is a disability you should go to the bottom of the list".
He added: "The point is [Travellers] are encouraged to think they are different. They are not. Everybody should be encouraged [to live] in an inclusive society."
It remains to be seen whether Mr Casey will reenter the race before the election next Friday, October 26.