Casey: 'I don't believe Travellers should be given any special status'
Presidential candidate Peter Casey joined Kevin Doyle on 'The Floating Voter' podcast to discuss his Áras ambitions. He now faces a backlash over this exchange
Peter Casey was asked how his view that it's easy to become rich in Ireland sits with voters at a time that other candidates are talking about homelessness.
Peter Casey: You've got people turning down houses because it's not where they want to live, it's not what they want. I'm sorry, if you're being offered a free house you should take it.
And then you've got this ridiculous situation down in Tipperary. The poor council, or people of Tipperary, paid €1.7m to build six luxurious houses. We're talking state of the art, solar panels, amazing finishes inside houses for the Travellers. And they won't move in because they want stables for their horses. I mean how ridiculous have we become as a society where they are turning down beautiful, four-bedroom houses because they're blackmailing the county council into giving them stables for their horses?
I'm sorry, there's something seriously wrong with society.
Kevin Doyle: That will resonate with some people but it will irk others. Is that the sort of statement you could make as president?
PC: I think the president can't make statements contrary to government policy. Obviously when I am president I will not be making any statements contrary to government policy. I've got about seven or eight days to knock myself out here. I don't believe that Travellers should be given special status. Why should they be given status over and above yourself or myself?
KD: They are seen as a minority ethnicity.
PC: That's a load of nonsense. They are not from Romany or whatever. They are basically people that are camping in other people's land. Imagine the poor farmer whose land they camped on. Who'd buy the land from him?
The neighbours in the houses all around. Do you think this is great for my property value that I've now got three dozen caravans down the road? That's just wrong. Somebody needs to sit up and say this is nonsense. We have given them luxurious houses and they are turning them down because they want stables.
But they know nobody else will move into the house. Could you imagine the brave person from Dublin that would say 'oh I'd love a four-bedroom house with solar panels and beautifully kitted-out kitchens'? Do you think they'd move in past the Travellers that are sitting out there waiting, watching them move in? Not going to happen. They are afraid of them.
KD: I have to put it to you that that kind of statement is one that will make people worry about electing you. Travellers have been fighting for rights in this country for generations, be that in the area of education or housing or other supports.
PC: They get education. They get support. They are not paying their fair share of taxes in society. They live, by and large it's acknowledged, outside of society. That's why they get their status.
But do they put in their tax returns? Do they pay their taxes? Obviously they have to pay VAT when they buy stuff but you know I think it's just wrong.
KD: It's a very broad statement, though. You can't just say all Travellers don't pay taxes.
PC: Well I'm just saying the general perception is ... I'll ask you a question. Where do you live, Kevin?
KD: Where do I live? I live in Dublin.
PC: You live in Dublin, right.
KD: I don't like where this is going. I'll give you a little bit of leeway, but I ask the questions.
PC: Ok, fair enough. Would you be quite happy if two dozen caravans with Travellers pulled up 400 or 500 yards from your house? Would you?
KD: I don't think they'd fit on the road by my house. But no, look, I accept that many communities have a problem when people pull up and move in and have caravans and whatever might come with that for a community ...
PC: It devastates the prices of the houses in the areas that they do. 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.
Laura Larkin: Just to point out that all your comments are coming against a background, as Kevin said, where Travellers have fought for rights in this country for a long time. Last week we saw research about discrimination by teachers against Travellers in schools, we see evidence that they feel locked out of the jobs market because they feel discriminated against. Every so often we see villages shutting down if there is a funeral or a wedding.
That discrimination is still very much alive and well. I think we need to point out your comments are coming against that backdrop.
Do you think you're paying enough attention to those factors?
PC: I think that's just a load of nonsense, what you just said, with all respect. Seriously. Why would villages close down? They are given free education, free healthcare. Down in Tipperary, they've given them electricity. They got everything there for them. They are now giving them six beautiful houses that cost the people of Tipperary €1.7m. That doesn't include the cost of the land.
They are refusing to move into the houses because they want stables for their horses. We've just lost it. I honestly just don't understand how anybody can justify that they deserve special treatment.