Monday 16 September 2019

Casey visits the homes at centre of row - but not the families

Media scrum: Presidential candidate Peter Casey visiting the houses at Cabragh Bridge in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo: Mark Condren
Media scrum: Presidential candidate Peter Casey visiting the houses at Cabragh Bridge in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Peter Casey and his wife Helen arrived at Cabragh Bridge and gazed at the six neat houses.

"Solar panels," he noted with satisfaction, under his breath.

The size of the media pack assembled appeared to also please him greatly. But the questions were not always to his liking.

He seemed to have no patience for the finer details - such as whether he should not just leave this particular situation to the legal system.

Finally, he turned on a reporter whose pertinent queries to him were deemed by Casey to be impertinent, dismissing him with the ultimate Trumpian comeback: "You are rude."

He left quickly after getting the exposure he'd come for.

And then the Traveller families came out amid great dignity to describe how Casey's comments have frightened their children and attempted to drive a wedge between Traveller people and settled people.

Around a dozen gardaí were assembled at various points - but there was no trouble.

Casey had travelled first to Cork by train yesterday morning to do a radio interview during which he continued his controversial streak.

"I'll be politically correct when I'm president - when I'll have to be politically correct," he declared.

After that, he had a pleasant wander around the English Market eating sausages on sticks, as a sizeable handful of people sidled up to him to mutter into his ear that he "spoke the truth".

For the most part, these people did not want to give their names.

"Do you want me to be burned out of my home?" demanded one man.

At Cabragh Bridge, members of the families there called down the hillside to give their verdict on Casey: "He don't like us, we don't like him."

And then Casey himself came strolling up the road, attracting cameras like a magnetic forcefield.

He was here to "explain his position", he said.

"It's bonkers," he said, claiming the Traveller families had looked for "two stables" per house as well as land for the horses.

The Traveller families later said that they had been promised grazing land by the council for their 12 horses.

Asked if he was going to meet the families, Casey said: "No, they know I'm here. If they want to meet me, they can come down. I think it's wrong to invade somebody's privacy," he said.

He left as soon as he could, as around 20 protesters walked quietly up the road with their placards with messages like: "We want a President that represents all."

Barry McCarthy, who lives at Cabragh Bridge with his wife Melissa and their six children, aged from 14 down to seven months, said the youngsters were "very frightened" by Casey's comments.

He was "very disappointed" not to meet him, he said, asking: "What was the reason for him coming so far?"

TJ Hogan, a Traveller social policy writer and member of the Traveller community, claimed that Casey was "taking a leaf out of Trump's book" with his controversial comments.

Margaret Casey of the Tipperary Rural Traveller project said Casey's comments were racist.

"He is actually trying to divide members of the settled community," she said.

"He's not fit to be President of Ireland, in my opinion. He should step down."

Irish Independent

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