Irish presidency candidate faces calls to withdraw over Traveller comments

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A candidate to become the next Irish president faces calls to withdraw after he said Travellers are simply people camping on someone else’s land.

Businessman Peter Casey claimed Ireland’s recognition of them as members of an ethnic minority was “a load of nonsense”.

He is one of six candidates vying for the largely ceremonial office in this month’s election but was accused of behaving recklessly and irresponsibly.

Irish presidential race
Presidential candidate Peter Casey (Niall Carson/PA)

“These comments put Mr Casey’s presidential campaign on the same level as a local election where people play the Nimby (not in my back yard) card to gain votes, as we have seen so often in the past.”

Mr Collins urged him to withdraw and added: “In the unlikely event that Mr Casey was elected as President it is obvious Travellers would not be welcome at Aras an Uachtarain, which is sad in the light of the new era of recognition and inclusion in Ireland.”

Mr Casey said he sympathised with residents living near Traveller camps.

He told an Irish Independent media group political podcast: “Do you think they are sitting here going, ‘this is great for my property value now that I’ve got three dozen caravans down the road’? It is just wrong.

“Somebody needs to sit up and say this is nonsense. Here we are are giving them luxurious houses and they’re turning them down because they’ve no stables.”

Incumbent Michael D Higgins is favourite to win the race for the presidency when the country goes to the polls in just over a week’s time.

He told Irish broadcaster RTE that Travellers comprised an ethnic minority which experienced discrimination, adding: “I find these views appalling.”

He said they lived an average of 10 years less than the general population, and young Traveller men were six times more likely to take their own lives.

This is not the first time controversy has ignited over their place in Irish society.

A fire at a halting site in south Dublin in 2015 killed 10 members of the community.

There was an outpouring of sympathy but some attempts to move survivors to another site failed because of opposition from residents.

Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ni Riada said stereotyping of any ethnic group was unacceptable.

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