The Road Haulage Association has strongly defended Fine Gael's by-election candidate Verona Murphy dubbing her someone who strives to avoid division and seeks to bring people together.
Ms Murphy, who is standing in the Wexford constituency, has been embroiled in controversy over remarks she made about asylum seekers. It has also emerged that Ms Murphy was named in an alleged bullying case in her role as head of the Road Haulage Association.
In February Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that an office manager at the Road Haulage Association was penalised for raising her concerns of alleged bullying against Ms Murphy and two other workers.
However, the Association has now backed the Fine Gael candidate and in a statement said: "The descriptions or terms being applied to Verona by some commentators do not represent or reflect the person that she is, the person that we know. Verona is person of integrity, a person who is warm, generous, kind and strives to be a force for good.
She is someone who strives to avoid division and seeks to bring people together.
A person who, like everyone, is fallible, but knows when to put her hand up and acknowledge that she has made a mistake."
They said Ms Murphy has been requested not to make any comment on allegations concerning a settlement concluded with a former employee.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said it was "entirely appropriate" of Ms Murphy to visit a direct provision centre following her remarks about asylum seekers.
Mr Flanagan also spoke out against an element of fear that is being whipped up in communities by "sinister forces" who are spreading "fake news".
In my own constituency last week in the village of Borris-in-Ossory people woke up on Sunday morning to a large banner with a photograph of me saying that I was welcoming a direct provision centre in the village.
"Of course that wasn't accurate. I believe it was done maliciously and it was unfair. But I'm very pleased that the local community didn't buy into what was an attempt to stoke up fear in the local community," he told RTÉ news.
Mr Flanagan encouraged all public representatives to visit their local centre.
"There has been a lot of criticism of many of these centres, they have been labelled open prisons, they've been labelled places where people are incarcerated, they have been labelled inhumane. I don't accept any of those.
He added: "I would invite all public representatives to visit their local centre to have an opportunity of engaging and sitting down and learning from the experience of those who have come through horrific and traumatic circumstances, and for whom we are providing the basic essential in terms of sustenance and shelter."