Monday 20 May 2019

Kevin Doyle: Peter Casey is no Donald Trump - the real reason for his support surge is deeper

Presidential candidate Peter Casey . Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Presidential candidate Peter Casey . Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Brexit, Trump... Casey.

Already the airwaves are bleeding with commentary about whether this is our ‘Brexit moment’.

But Peter Casey is no Donald Trump, and the vote he achieved in the presidential election is not based on a right-wing ideology.

Yes, his surge from little-known Dragon to household name was driven by his views on Travellers – but the real reason runs much deeper.

He has won votes in every part of the country, among every age demographic and among different social classes.

By suggesting his rise is only about Travellers is to argue that one in five people are racist. They are not. This is not a stark and sudden reversal of our new-found liberalism on social issues.

Instead Peter Casey tapped into a more general frustration. A feeling in many parts of the country that they are not allowed to complain anymore.

The ‘coping classes’ know the economy is good again, but it’s not enough.

For many it didn’t matter what Peter Casey was saying, it didn't matter that he wasn’t afraid of sparking debate.

The nuances of the dispute over six homes built for Travellers in Tipperary are lost on most people – but it’s simply wrong that they are lying empty in the middle of a housing crisis.

Everybody thought that when the story about the €1.7m development first made the news – but nobody was saying it for fear of a backlash.

Casey also repeated many of the mantras used Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, including the desire to represent people who get up early in the morning.

Mr Varadkar was previously in trouble for chasing down welfare cheats, Mr Casey went further by having a pop off the broader welfare system.

Despite calling on people not to vote for Mr Casey, the Taoiseach will not be at all perturbed by the outcome.

The businessman was speaking his language, albeit in more irreverent and unmeasured tone.

As it arrived at the main results centre in Dublin Castle today, Mr Caesy declared himself "left-of-centre rather than right-of-centre".

The claim was met with a gaggle of laughter from the journalists. Many reporters still don’t think take him seriously despite his vote pulling power.

Interestingly the RTÉ exit poll suggests Mr Casey took votes from Michael D Higgins in the final days of the campaign.

Two more opposing candidates would be hard to find – but the fact people could switch seamlessly from one to the other is further evidence that this was not about politics as normal.

With Mr Higgins, we know what we’re getting. An intellectual, a poet and a moderniser who will represent us well abroad. A reflection of what we aspire to be as a culture.

With Peter Casey we got something closer to what the average Irish person really is: unpredictable and up for the craic but somewhat frustrated.

On this occasion voters had the safety net of knowing of Mr Higgins would win, so they could take a swipe at politically correctness without have to deal with the consequences.

So Michael D Higgins speaks for all of Ireland but we haven’t heard the last from Peter Casey either.

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