'Don't quit': amazing support has helped me to stay in race
It hurts to be called a racist but my critics should listen to my plans and ideas for Ireland, says presidential candidate Peter Casey
Okay, I'm just going to say it: I've been troubled the past couple of days. To read articles that say I am a racist hurts. To hear the Taoiseach, whom I have always respected, say people shouldn't vote for me also hurts, deeply.
I was so shaken up by it all, I considered dropping out of the race.
To hell with it, I thought, if people want to believe all the nonsense, then I'm just throwing up my hands and walking away from politics.
Then something happened, something remarkable. I received thousands of texts, emails and phone calls saying: "Don't quit. You're the only who talks about the issues with honesty."
"You are the one candidate, who isn't reciting the same political malarkey we've been hearing forever."
"Stay in the race. And furthermore, no one is telling me who to vote for."
To get that kind of support was amazing. And it has made me more determined than ever to remain in the race.
First off, about the Travellers.
Anyone who has followed my campaign knows my number-one issue has been the diaspora. Having lived around the world, I recognise the strength of the worldwide Irish community. No matter where you go, you would be shocked at how many people, many who've never even visited our country, identify themselves first and foremost as "Irish".
More than 40m "Irish" live in the United States right now; more than a third of all Australians are "Irish"; and there are seven times as many "Irish" living outside Ireland than within our borders. This "Irish" pride, which contains many of the worldwide leaders in politics, business and science, is our greatest untapped asset. Any country would love having this asset and like I have often said: Why should we act like a small country, when we are already a great nation?
I have spoken at length about all the ways to harness this Irish pride to strengthen Ireland's prominence. And I will do whatever I can to unite the worldwide Irish communities, whether they are in Boston, Bombay or wherever. And when someone talked to me recently about the Travellers, who have lived in Ireland for centuries, I rightly viewed them as "Irish" too.
They live in our country, go to our schools, and vote in our elections. In fact, I believe, if we all accepted them more as "Irish", we would do so much more to remedy their long-standing problems, such as chronic unemployment, homelessness and a suicide rate that is six times the national average.
I respect the Travellers' culture and traditions, but I will always think of them first and foremost as "Irish" too.
If that is wrong, I am not apologising.
There isn't enough space to go into great depth about all my campaign's concerns and promises, so I will just quickly cover them here:
Homelessness is a terrible problem. Every child should have a "home", that is beyond debate.
I believe we need better and more inventive urban planning in Dublin; we have to make rural Ireland much more attractive to businesses; and I think we should emulate FDR's GI Bill and create a national programme that helps first-time buyers purchase homes. It will not be easy, but history demonstrates it can be done.
Living in Donegal, right across the water from Northern Ireland, I know how miserable internet service is in rural Ireland. It makes conducting business and all communications too difficult.
Recently, near my home, I came upon a horrific accident and we couldn't get in touch with an ambulance in time to help the person. So I know the anger and frustration rural Ireland feels.
We don't need to bury more cable or spend hundreds of millions on infrastructure or be held hostage by governmental indifference. There are 4G solutions which can be implemented simply and inexpensively.
And lastly, how do we help so many of our people who have trouble making ends meet and cannot escape living pay cheque to pay cheque?
The struggling class among the squeezed middle class!
As much as I won't have the power to make change, I will be the First Citizen and as such, I want to influence the government in power to support every man, woman and child in the country.
We need to acknowledge the hard-working taxpayers of this country and reward them for being the lifeblood of our economy and not penalise them.
The average working family of John and Mary with two kids watched that budget two weeks ago to see what was in it for them. They wondered what thanks the Government was going to give them for getting up in the morning and sacrificing their time to pay taxes to fund the State.
Guess what, they got nothing, or least very little apart from a reduction in USC to 0.25pc.
Meanwhile they watched couples in the same situation on benefits get an increase of hundreds of Euro per year when you include increases in all benefits from March. How do you think that makes people feel? Then we wonder why the nation is dividing.
I want to state that there are many people very vulnerable in this country, who are disabled, elderly, in care or for whatever reason, can't work; they deserve every penny in support, if not more.
But Ireland is slowly becoming a welfare-dependent state, with a sense of entitlement that's become unaffordable. The socialist politicians are focusing all their interests on welfare and social housing and have forgotten about the bill-payers, the mortgage-payers and the taxpayers.
Where is the incentive to work in this country? We have become a nation of people who expect, no demand, that the State looks after them. Pays all their bills, provides them with homes, provides all sorts of social benefits.
As proud Irish people, we are better than that. We need to restore our national pride and our national identity.
Where are the rewards and support for the families who are getting up early in the morning for work, struggling to pay their bills?
All I'll say is, as a lifelong entrepreneur and businessman, we all need to work together to create new ideas that will make life easier and better for more people.