Peter Casey stands by Traveller comments made during failed election campaign

Former presidential candidate Peter Casey has claimed he was unfairly described as racist during the presidential campaign and that comments he made about the Travelling community were not wrong.

He also told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show that recognising Travellers as an ethnic minority is ‘nonsense’.

When asked if his comments were wrong, he replied:

“No. There is absolutely no difference in my DNA and a Traveller’s DNA. I don’t think they are a different ethnic group.”

However, Brian Dillon, a development officer with the Traveller-led housing organisation CENA, argued that the businessman’s comments were wrong.

It was misinformed. People use the word ‘populist’… and also I’ve seen (claims) that what Peter Casey was saying was nothing more than what an awful lot of people in Ireland are saying.

“That doesn’t make it correct, or in itself doesn’t make it right or proper or informed.”

He explained that ethnic is defined as “a recognition of an identifiable subculture within a dominant subculture”.

Mr Dillon also challenged Mr Casey’s assertions that a group of Travellers refused to move into houses in Co Tipperary as they were demanding land and stables.

“Not only is it not as straightforward as that, it’s factually incorrect.

Factual error number one – they never demanded stables. Factual error number two – they never asked for an acre of land each. Those are just complete and utter fabrications.

Martin ‘Beanz’ Warde, a member of the Travelling community and a well-known comedian, also sat down with Mr Casey for the interview. “I don’t think the people who voted for you were entirely racist.

“I think there’s a little bit of a lack of knowledge around what nationality and ethnicity mean.

“But then through the last 20 years, it was decided there are markers that are set out to determine whether a community or a group are an ethnic minority.”

He told Mr Casey: “I don’t think that you’re a nasty person… I think that you may be somewhat misguided.”

The businessman insisted he is completely opposed to discrimination of any kind.

He also said he seriously considered pulling out of the race for the Áras until he received around 3,000 messages asking him not to.

He added that he wished the issue of Travellers never came up during the campaign, but noted: “It did come up – you can’t put the genie back into the bottle.

“I think (Travellers) definitely need financial assistance, to break the cycle, you know, high suicide rates and lower life expectancy.”