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08.26 17 Oct 2018


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Presidential candidate Peter Casey will tomorrow visit a Tipperary housing development which he says members of the Travelling community refused "because they want stables."

This evening a spokesperson for the 61-year-old said he will not be making a statement amid controversy over comments he made about the Travelling community in the Irish Independent's Floating Voter podcast. 

The comments sparked condemnation from his fellow candidates - and calls from the Irish Traveller Movement for him to retract and apologise. 

"I don't believe that Travellers should be given special status," Mr Casey told the podcast. "Why should they be given status over and above yourself or myself?"

Interviewer Kevin Doyle suggested they are seen as a minority ethnicity, to which Mr Casey replied: "That's a load of nonsense.

"They're not Romany or whatever - they're basically people that are camping on somebody else's land.

"Imagine the poor farmer whose land that they camped on, and who'll buy the land from him?

"The neighbours in the houses all around - do you think they're sitting there going 'this is great for my property value because I've now got three dozen caravans down the road'.

"It's just wrong, and I think somebody needs to sit up and say this is nonsense.

"And here we are giving them luxurious houses and they're turning them down because they want stables?

"But they know that nobody else will move into the house.

"Can you imagine the brave person that'll go in Dublin: 'I'd love a lovely four bedroom house with solar panels and beautifully kitted out kitchens' - do you think would they move in, past all the Travellers that are sitting out there, waiting, watching them - not going to happen.

"They're afraid of them".

On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, Mr Doyle suggested the comments may be a campaign tactic for Mr Casey.

"Maybe he is betting that everybody has become so PC that people are afraid to open up these debates," he said.

"Maybe he is betting that there is a big section of society out there that will say, 'do you know what, he speaks for me because I am not allowed to say that, because you can't say these things any more in Ireland.'"

"Inflammatory, offensive, insulting"

Co-Director of Pavee Point, Martin Collins, has called on Mr Casey to pull out of the race.

"I was both disappointed and indeed disturbed that a Presidential candidate would make such inflammatory, offensive, insulting and indeed bordering on racist remarks about the Traveller community.

"I and Pavee Point - and indeed other Traveller groups - will be calling for Peter Casey to step out of the Presidential campaign".

"A new low for high office"

The Irish Traveller Movement has suggested the comments were "either founded on ignorance at best or in an attempt to harness anti-Traveller support for election purposes."

"Travellers have often been scapegoated to canvass electoral support in the run up to both local and general elections.

"The emergence of Peter Casey’s views demonstrates a new low for high office showing a lack of fundamental knowledge and thwarts the social conditions around Traveller’s place in Irish society and their unique status as Ireland’s only indigenous minority."

Bernard Joyce of the Irish Traveller Movement said: "These views are not of an Ireland of today which has embraced equality and diversity and where we have seen fundamental changes including Traveller ethnicity recognition."

'Reckless and inflammatory'

Responding to the remarks, all fellow Presidential candidates criticised Mr Casey.

Gavin Duffy said: "I am deeply concerned by the comments of Peter Casey.

"I think his comments are reckless and inflammatory and have no place in a campaign for election of first citizen.

"They reach back into another era which I believed we, as a society and a community, have put well behind us.

"Travellers face many challenges in life, not least in developing and sustaining understanding and acceptance with the settled community.

"Such comments only pitch us back into a time and a dark place that we have long ago left behind.

"I would ask Mr Casey to withdraw his comments."

While Liadh Ní Riada condemned the comments: "The Travelling community are an integral and historic element of the Irish nation who have faced discrimination and marginalisation at the hands of the state and local authorities for many decades.

"They have been demonized and vilified by elements of the media who see Travellers as a handy scapegoat when discussing social problems.

"For anyone seeking public office, let alone that of the nation’s first citizen to engage in lazy, racist stereotyping of any ethnic group is unacceptable."

And Senator Joan Freeman said: "I've met various members and representatives of the Traveller community as part of my work.

"What I've seen is a group of people who've never been encouraged to be part of our community.

"As a result of this, many of them won't access supports such as mental health services which in turn leaves them to suffer in silence.

"The suicide rate in the Traveller community is six times higher than in the general population and traveller men are seven times more likely to take their lives than settled men.

"Comments like these from Peter Casey are hugely disrespectful, hurtful and frankly show how out of touch he is with this country".

Calls for Peter Casey to withdraw from Presidential race over Traveller comments

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

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