Wednesday 20 November 2019

Casey seems an impressive candidate - so it's a shame he is going for the wrong job this time


Peter Casey. Photo: Mark Condren
Peter Casey. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Peter Casey is interviewing for a job. He seems affable and enthusiastic. He has an expensive, tousled hair cut and is wearing a nice suit. The interview panel listen politely and nod.

He talks about the diaspora and the 11 million people in the world who identify as Irish and how they need to be harnessed.

Ireland is fighting 'way below our weight' on the world stage, and he believes we can make a huge difference if we get 'our amazing diaspora' connected together.

With 'drive, energy and compassion', he believes himself to be "uniquely suited" to the job.

Regrettably, he doesn't speak any Irish but is willing to do "a crash course if he gets elected".

And he has "no axe to grind".

Everybody on the panel - who happen to be the electorate - is far too polite to tell him that he seems to have accidentally stumbled into the wrong room.

"Hey, buddy - sounds good but this is the interview selection for the presidency," someone is bound to mumble, eventually.

"Ambassador to the United States or head of the IDA, those are the jobs for you.

"Unfortunately there are no vacancies at present but we'll keep your details on file, OK?"

In the meantime, Peter Casey is running for president.

In case there's any doubt, his wife Helen - originally from Crumlin but now with a slight American accent - introduces him at the launch at the Epic Centre in the CHQ in Dublin as: "Peter Casey, the future president of Ireland." She describes him as having "intelligence, charm, confidence and a kind and considerate nature".

"There are plenty of other things he could be doing with his time and energy," she informs us.

The 61-year-old businessman grew up on the Bogside in Derry. At the age of 11, he accompanied his dad on the Civil Rights march. He is relocating from Atlanta, Georgia. He has sold his house there which had a pool and which was "probably bigger than the Áras", he tells us, before quickly adding that he was "only joking".

Now he has a place in Donegal and a house on "Upper, Upper... Upper Leeson Street," he recalls eventually.

He has roped in another "very wealthy" businessman, Francis Callahan, as his driver.

Two young women in green 'Peter for President' T-shirts tell us they are "not allowed to speak to the media".

His election slogan is "Small Country Big Nation". It's the work of Jerry Cronin, the Boston-based ad man who came up with the famous Nike tag line: "Just Do It".

On Brexit, he reveals that he was part of the delegation for the Good Friday Agreement and recalls how they sat in different rooms to brainstorm different solutions.

"Nobody ever thought Britain would leave the EU," he says. "It was never discussed."

Brexit will be "a real challenge", he says, adding that he believes they will likely kick the problem of the Border down the road "because there is no solution".

He thinks the other candidates are being far too nice about President Michael D Higgins because they're all saying he is a "wonderful president" and wonders why they are running against him if he's all that wonderful? "He stopped being wonderful about two or three years ago," he says dismissively.

Asked if he is aware of a strong public affection for Michael D Higgins, he admits he is the only one who doesn't seem to think he is "Santa Claus".

Afterwards, he hits the streets. The plan is for Grafton Street, he tells us. Only it's not, it's Henry Street.

Bridget Mooney, selling bags, likes the cut of his jib and will give him her number one. Shopper Mary Woods lets him down gently. Asked for her vote, she said she "couldn't guarantee it".

The flower sellers are having a furious debate about who he is. "He's the fella from Supermac's," says one.

Irish Independent

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