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Casey sparks outrage with his 'racist' remarks on Travellers

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 17/10/2018 Kevin Doyle and Shane Phelan
Ireland's presidential candidate Peter Casey   REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne © Reuters Ireland's presidential candidate Peter Casey REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Presidential candidate Peter Casey is facing calls to pull out of the race after claiming Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority because they are "basically people camping in someone else's land".

The businessman launched a lengthy attack on the community, arguing: "They are not paying their fair share of taxes in society."

History was made last year when the Dáil gave formal recognition to Travellers as a distinct ethnic group within the State.

However, Mr Casey said: "That's a load of nonsense. They are not from Romany or whatever."

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When challenged about his views on Independent.ie's podcast 'The Floating Voter', Mr Casey doubled down, saying the arrival of Travellers in an area "devastates the prices of the houses".

"Let's call a spade a spade. Your house price doesn't start going through the roof as soon as you get two dozen Travellers moving in down the street from you," he said.

He cited an ongoing dispute in Tipperary where six homes are empty in a €1.7m development because families living on an unauthorised site nearby want stables for horses.

"I'm sorry, there's something seriously wrong with society when we're at that stage," Mr Casey said.

His comments were last night described by Pavee Point as "ill-informed, grossly insulting and offensive".

Peter Casey speaking at EPIC centre in Dublin at the official launch of his presidential campaign. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA. Friday October 5, 2018. © Provided by Irish Independent Peter Casey speaking at EPIC centre in Dublin at the official launch of his presidential campaign. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA. Friday October 5, 2018.

David Joyce, a member of the Travelling community and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, told the Irish Independent: "He should withdraw from the campaign. He's shown he's not fit to represent all the people of Ireland. This man is a racist. He is scapegoating my community."

Mr Joyce, who is also a solicitor, added: "I don't think any presidential campaign in the past has ever stooped to this level of blatant racism."

He said the candidate's views were "founded on ignorance, prejudice and pure racism".

"The notion that we all live in caravans and pull up on people's land is rubbish," he said.

Martin Collins, co-director of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, said: "These comments put his presidential campaign on the same level as a local election where people play the nimby card to gain votes, as we have seen so often in the past.

Ireland's presidential candidates (L to R) Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman and Sean Gallagher, are seen in the studio for a debate on RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin, Ireland, October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne © Reuters Ireland's presidential candidates (L to R) Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman and Sean Gallagher, are seen in the studio for a debate on RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin, Ireland, October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

"This potentially can feed into racist stereotypes and it is reckless and irresponsible and certainly not befitting anyone standing to be president for all the people of Ireland."

Mr Collins said Mr Casey's input had helped to "belittle the lived experience of Travellers in terms of racism and exclusion".

The interview was described as "very concerning" by Shane O'Curry, director of the European Network Against Racism, which has 87 member organisations in Ireland.

"I am shocked at the ignorance of his comments. They show that Peter Casey is as ignorant as he is inept at politicking," he said.

Ireland's presidential candidates (L to R) Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher, President Michael D. Higgins and Liadh Ni Riada are seen in the studio for a debate on RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin, Ireland, October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne © Reuters Ireland's presidential candidates (L to R) Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher, President Michael D. Higgins and Liadh Ni Riada are seen in the studio for a debate on RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin, Ireland, October 13, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

"His comments about Traveller ethnicity fly in the face of academic consensus and what Travellers say themselves.

"It betrays a gross misunderstanding of what it is to be an ethnic minority, as well as a gross misunderstanding of what life is like in Ireland for ethnic minorities.

"The purpose of recognising Traveller ethnicity is to renegotiate the relationship between society and Travellers so that we can value Travellers' contribution to society more.

"Peter Casey's comments have a devastating effect. Let's not forget that when politicians have made comments like those before they have resulted in violence and intimidation against Travellers."

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