Sports Minister Paschal Donohoe has criticised his cabinet colleague Alan Kelly for attending events with Football Association of Ireland chief John Delaney.
Mr Donohoe claimed public campaigning “should be left to politicians”.
It comes as Mr Kelly defended the FAI chief who accompanied him to events in his constituency and encouraged people to vote for him.
Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea yesterday described Mr Delaney’s lobbying as “totally inappropriate”.
The football chief, who is from Tipperary and is good friends with the minister, attended a number of soccer clubs and a barber shop with Labour’s deputy leader.
He later gave an interview with local radio in which he appeared to encourage people to vote for Mr Kelly.
Responding to criticisms, Mr Kelly said: “If John Delaney feels it’s appropriate that people in Tipperary vote for me, I mean, that’s fine by me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Mr Kelly said the soccer chief had not canvassed on his behalf.
But Mr Donohoe said campaigning should be left to those in politics, especially ahead of a general election campaign. He said: “We live in a democracy and people are entitled to express their own private and personal views in relation to what is happening.
“What I think however is important is that as we move into a election period in which people will be going out looking for votes and putting forward their own arguments as to why they should be elected, that the space should be left to political figures.
He added those “involved in sport or leading major sporting organisations” should not get involved in politics.
“Moving into an election period I think it’s very important that everybody is entitled to express their private views” but he added that “as we enter into that election period the public campaigning in relation to this should be left to politicians”.
Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have been fiercely critical of Mr Delaney’s support of the minister.
Mr O’Dea said: “This is another example of the Labour Party refusing to own up to something that they would be highly critical of in opposition. I mean, is it any wonder that there’s such cynicism about politics out there? I think it’s totally inappropriate. I think it’s absolutely inappropriate. Frankly I’ve never heard anything like it,” he said.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was inappropriate for Mr Delaney to provide his friend with a “dig-out”.
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