Wednesday 21 November 2018

LISTEN: Presidential candidate Peter Casey believes Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority

Presidential candidate Peter Casey launched an attack on the Travelling community on the Floating Voter podcast

Peter Casey speaking at EPIC centre in Dublin at the official launch of his presidential campaign. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA. Friday October 5, 2018.
Peter Casey speaking at EPIC centre in Dublin at the official launch of his presidential campaign. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA. Friday October 5, 2018.
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Peter Casey has claimed Travellers should not be recognised as a ethnic minority because they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land”.

The businessman launched a lengthy attack on the community, arguing: “They are not paying their fair share of taxes in society.”

There were celebrations in Leinster House last year when the Dáil gave formal recognition to Travellers as a distinct ethic group within the State.

The move was described as historic by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

However, Mr Casey said: “That’s a load of nonsense. They are not from Romany or whatever.”

In a wide-ranging interview, on Independent.ie’s podcast, ‘The Floating Voter’, the candidate also criticises RTÉ’s handling of Monday’s televised debate and says he will apologise to Michael D Higgins for claiming taxpayers fund his dog-grooming bill if the President can produce receipts.

Mr Casey claims he warned RTÉ about the potential for an audience to interrupt the ‘Claire Byrne Live’ debate as happened on Monday night.

In a statement to Independent.ie, RTÉ disputed this assertion and said all candidates were aware of the selection process for audience members.

RTÉ also denied there was a dispute between management and Mr Casey after the show, saying that all the candidates were thanked for their attendance.

“RTÉ continues to be in communication and liaise with Mr Casey's team today and he is scheduled to do a one-to-one interview on the RTÉ Six One News live,” a spokesperson said.

When challenged on the podcast about his views on Travellers, Mr Casey doubled down, saying the arrival of Travellers in an area “devastates the prices of the houses”.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. Your house price doesn’t start going through the roof as soon as you get two dozen Travellers moving in down the street from you.”

He cited an ongoing dispute in Tipperary where six new homes are lying empty in a €1.7m development because families living on an unauthorised site nearby are refusing to move in until they get stables for horses.

“I mean how ridiculous have we become as a society where they are turning down beautiful, four-bedroom houses because there’ll blackmailing the county council into giving them stables for their horses.

“I’m sorry, there’s something seriously wrong with society when we’re at that stage,” Mr Casey said.

His comments were last night described by Pavee Point as “ill-informed and grossly insulting and offensive”.

And David Joyce, a member of the Travelling community and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, told Independent.ie: “He should withdraw from the campaign. He’s shown he’s not fit to represent all the people of Ireland.

“This man is a racist. He is scapegoating my community.”

Mr Joyce, who is also a solicitor, added: “I don’t think any presidential campaign in the past has ever stooped to this level of blatant racism.”

Martin Collins, Co Director, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, said: “These comments put his presidential campaign on the same level as a local election where people play the nimby card to gain votes, as we have seen so often in the past.

“This potentially can feed into racist stereotypes and it is both reckless and irresponsible and certainly not befitting anyone standing to be President for all the people of Ireland.”

The interview was described as “very concerning” by Shane O’Curry, director of the European Network Against Racism, which has 87 member organisations in Ireland.

President Michael D Higgins has described the views expressed by Mr Casey as “appalling”.

While he said it wasn’t for him to call on a rival to drop out of the race, it was “a very important step to recognise Traveller’s ethnicity”.

He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that Travellers are a minority who experience discrimination, have trouble accessing education and have a lifespan that is ten years less than average.

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