Casey ‘kidding himself’ over election votes, says Traveller

A Traveller woman has said that Peter Casey is “kidding himself” after he rejected claims his support was bolstered by populist views.

Mr Casey, who was projected to come runner-up in the Irish presidential race after Michael D Higgins, claimed on Saturday morning that people voted for him because he spoke for “middle Ireland” who were working and “paying the bills”.

Mr Casey previously made comments that Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority, because they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land”, and the group are “not paying their fair share of taxes in society”.

He had come under increased scrutiny in presidential debates and had some of his comments labelled “populist” and “racist” by other candidates. He was also compared to former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Kathleen Lawrence, who works at Traveller outreach programme Pavee Point, said that Mr Casey had used an already disenfranchised community to bolster his lead in the polls.

“The fact that he garnered 20% of votes is disappointing but it’s not surprising given his comments,” she said.

“I think now we need to look at the fact that 20% bought into his message.

“I think we need to target those people to help them and change the way politics is being done.

“People are drained, working full time and barely scraping by and that’s awful, but the fact Peter Casey used an ethnic minority to make up the blame, that is disturbing.

“I think what needs to happen is we need to tap into why people voted for him, we can’t let this pass by.

“We need to put protocols in place that would prevent people like Peter Casey and any other potential candidate at all levels, we need anti-racism protocols in place that they have to sign up to, to make sure that they don’t use minorities to further their own political agenda.”

Ms Lawrence said the feeling in her family was one of fear after Mr Casey said he had received thousands of letters of support after making his views on Travellers known.

“I can’t speak for all Travellers, but amongst my own family there was a lot of fear around what would happen if he got in,” she said.

“We’re already marginalised, we’re already facing extreme discrimination and extensive cuts, people were feeling like, ‘Well, what more can we handle?’

“I don’t know what he stood for, all we know is he spoke about Travellers and people on welfare for the last three weeks.

“A good portion of his votes came from his Traveller comments.

“I know he’s trying to convince people that isn’t the case, but he’s really trying to kid himself.

“The reason he continued in the race was because he received emails of support after the comments, he said that himself.”

On Saturday, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Kieran O’Reilly expressed concern over hurt caused by the public discussion during the election campaign.

“In recent weeks I was alarmed by some of the inflammatory language used during the public discourse which formed part of this election campaign,” he said.

“Feedback that I have received from members of the Travelling community, and from those dependent on financial assistance from the state in order to survive, has confirmed my concerns.

“Ill-informed and inflammatory language has caused real hurt, humiliation and heartache. This offensive commentary was particularly virulent on social media. It has been particularly damaging to the Traveller community which has been endeavouring to grow and preserve its ethnic identity as part of our society.”

He asked that those who engage in projects around Traveller health and well-being redouble their efforts.