Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has denied claims made by Fine Gael's Wexford candidate Verona Murphy that she was the subject of a character assassination.
In a surprising intervention, Mr Flanagan also referred to another named candidate who ran in the Dublin Fingal constituency who he said "got a free pass" from the media.
Asked about Ms Murphy, who was forced to apologise during the campaign for her remarks about asylum seekers, Mr Flanagan said: “This was a turbulent campaign. The Fine Gael campaign, in particular, experienced some difficulties. I don't believe it would be reasonable or fair to define any candidate on one issue."
He added: “It was Verona’s Murphy first election campaign. She wasn't accustomed to what is the rough and tumble of an election campaign. Elections are not for the faint-hearted."
Ahead of yesterday's vote, Ms Murphy claimed in an online post that she had been the victim of a character assassination. However, when questioned on this, Mr Flanagan said he didn't believe this was the case.
When asked if her comments had a direct impact on her performance in the by-election, Mr Flanagan said it was "difficult to assess" but he wouldn't be rushing to any conclusions.
“What I will say is that she was the focus of much national criticism. She apologised, but there are other candidates, and one in particular - Gemma O’Doherty - who didn't apologise and who seemed to get something of a free pass, perhaps maybe from former colleagues in the media.”