Traveller children have been left “scared and nervous” after hearing of presidential candidate Peter Casey’s comments about their community at school.
Mr Casey first made the comments on a podcast where he denied Traveller people were an ethnic minority, and were “camping on other people’s land”.
The comments have come under severe scrutiny from the media and the public, however Mr Casey has stood by his word, and travelled to Tipperary on Thursday to visit the site of a housing development which has been a cause for dispute between the county council and the local travelling community.
— Peter Casey (@CaseyPeterJ) October 17, 2018
The houses, at Cabra Bridge outside Thurles, have been uninhabited for months after the travelling community who were due to move in to the new homes say the local authority built the houses with no room for horse grazing.
The travelling community say horses are a lifeline and an integral part of their culture, and they could not move into the houses without appropriate land guaranteed for grazing.
Brian McCarty, whose family have been in the area for over 40 years, was promised one of the houses, and says although trust has broken down between the travelling community and the local authority, it is a local issue and Peter Casey’s journey to the site, along with the country’s media was a “political football” and a “stunt”.
“The children are very frightened about this, this talk he’s coming out with, it’s very frightening for kids,” Mr McCarty said.
“They’re listening to other kids in school who are talking to them about this situation.
“I never thought this issue would ever come to this, we would be happy with the houses, but this isn’t what they promised us.”
“There is no reason for Mr Casey to come down here and talk down to us, what does he know about us?,” he added.
TJ Hogan, a social policy writer for the Irish Traveller Network, says he would like Mr Casey to retract the statements.
“I’d like him to retract what he said, he’s not a president who would represent me, or my family and would not represent the diverse communities that we have here in Ireland,” he said.
On Wednesday night during a live television debate, Mr Casey accused the other candidates of lying when they said they would have no issue with travellers living next door to them.
He stood by his comments on Thursday in Thurles, but did not make an effort to speak to any of the travelling community who were nearby.
“My position is the proclamation says we should cherish all the children of the nation equally, it doesn’t say we should cherish some more than others,” Mr Casey said.
“I want to get attention to this, people need to stand up and say something is wrong when it’s wrong, there are people sleeping in the streets.
“It’s wrong we’re separating one group and saying; ‘You’re different’.”
When asked if he believed the four generations of families who have lived in the area had a right to stay, he replied: “No, I don’t.
“The president is the voice for the majority as well, I would seek to be the voice of everyone in Ireland.”