Ireland’s Taoiseach has promised to listen to a protest vote which saw a relatively unknown businessman take around a fifth of the presidential vote.
Leo Varadkar acknowledged an element of anti-Traveller sentiment after runner-up Peter Casey enjoyed an electoral bounce when he said they should not be considered as members of an ethnic minority.
Mr Varadkar said poll-topping President Michael D Higgins had won an “overwhelming” victory to take a second term in the office.
The Taoiseach said: “There were people registering protest for lots of other reasons.
“When people register a protest, whether it is on the streets or in the ballot box you have to listen to that, if you are in politics.
“As politicians we always need to listen to people when they register a protest.”
Historians may yet correct me but I think @MichaelDHiggins has won the highest first vote for any candidate since the foundation of the State
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) October 27, 2018
Mr Casey saw a surge in support after he accused Irish Travellers of camping on other people’s land and criticised the refusal by some to take state-provided homes.
The Taoiseach said: “A lot of people voted for Mr Casey but he is going to get less than one of four votes so we should not lose sight of the actual result here.”
He added there was a lot of work to be done on building understanding of Traveller culture and said they suffered inequality.
Mr Varadkar said: “There is a misunderstanding between the settled community and Traveller community.
“It is something that we will have to reflect on in the coming days.
“I want the Irish Traveller community to know that I, as head of Government, and the Government that I lead respect them and see them as part of our society and we want to continue to work with them to deal with some of these inequalities and disadvantages that are at the root of some of these problems.”