The Fianna Fáil leader has given his firm backing to Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who is running for the party in the upcoming Dublin Fingal by-election, despite controversial comments she made on Twitter. 

In a statement tonight, , Micheál Martin said Senator Clifford-Lee was "genuinely sorry for the comments" and he believed that "everyone should get a second chance." 

Earlier this week the party said it did not plan to discipline Ms Clifford-Lee over the comments.

Mr Martin, who campaigned with the Senator in Donabate tonight, said: "Lorraine will be apologising directly to Pavee Point on Friday when she meets them to discuss all the issues that are impacting on the travelling community." 

The tweets include one in July 2011 in which Ms Clifford-Lee said: "Just doing up inventory of items in my car when it was stolen by some knacker. I think I am going to cry."

In another, dated June 2011, she described some clothes as being "like something from a traveller wedding". 

Responding tonight, Mr Martin added that Ms Clifford-Lee "has conformed with all party policies on diversity and equality" since she was elected as a Senator in 2016.

However human rights activist and Council of State member Dr Sindy Joyce said Senator Clifford-Lee should "do the right thing and stand down."  

Other declared candidates in Dublin Fingal include Dr James Reilly, who is running for Fine Gael, Ann Graves for Sinn Féin, Duncan Smith for Labour, Joe O'Brien for the Green Party and Independent Gemma O'Doherty.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan branded the comments as "offensive, silly and inappropriate".