Last week Presidential hopeful, Peter Casey, made headlines for his comments about travellers. In what many now believe was the defining moment of this Presidential Election, the Derry born businessman who built his business in the USA and now lives in Donegal, injected life into an otherwise ‘dull and bland’ campaign. He broke every rule in the Irish political handbook when he simply spoke his mind and said what many people were thinking.
The businessman argued: "They are not paying their fair share of taxes in society,” and described them as: “basically people camping in someone else's land." The comments were made while giving an interview to the Independent.ie podcast “The Floating Voter.” Since he made these comments the mainstream media has been conducting a concerted campaign to discredit him as a candidate by branding him a bigot and racist. However, the general consensus amongst the electorate has been that Casey was the only candidate with the courage to say what many were thinking. Casey cemented his position as the disruptor in chief when he doubled down on his position by reinforcing his views on the “Pat Kenny” debate, which took place last Wednesday week. The other five candidates came across as insincere as they proclaimed that they would welcome travellers camping outside their homes, this was not lost on the viewing public.
In the run-up to last weekend, Casey faced a full-frontal attack driven by the liberal media and supported by traveller-interest-groups and the political establishment. By Friday, just a week out from polling day, Casey made a surprise announcement that he was going to suspend his campaigning and reflect upon his position. He explained that he did not want to become president for just having made one comment, that he was much more than that, and that he could bring a wealth of experience to the role.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made an unprecedented intervention by describing Mr Casey’s comments as “divisive” and calling on the electorate to “...send a clear message to Mr Casey,” on polling day.
However, with immaculate timing, Casey’s self-imposed exile ended with an exclusive interview in the Sunday Independent, in which he revealed that he would remain in the race and that he had been inspired by thousands of messages of support over the weekend. He said to receive such support made him "more determined than ever to remain in the race." Mr Casey addressed his comments on the travelling community, saying he viewed them as Irish. "They live in our country, go to our schools, and vote in our elections," he said, before adding: "I believe, if we all accepted them more as ‘Irish’, we would do so much more to remedy their longstanding problems, like chronic unemployment, homelessness, and a suicide rate that is six times the national average. Casey’s timing afforded him front-page coverage in Ireland’s largest circulating newspaper and effectively muted all other candidates in the important final weekend of the campaign.
Despite being wrongfully branded a racist by many, Casey never made derogatory remarks of any sort about members of the travelling community. In fact, he simply stated a number of facts about their culture and expressed an opinion that he felt they should not receive special treatment or be regarded as ethnically different to any other Irish person. If anything, Casey was advocating greater equality for travellers and settled people.
Just as Casey confirmed that he was back in the race, he dropped a further bomb on the PC brigade by declaring that he believed the country had become a welfare state in which people felt entitled, and in his opinion this was unaffordable. A frenzy of public fury ensued despite the fact his comments that Ireland has become a welfare state were very carefully qualified by him noting that he believed carers and the sick needed our support more than ever and that they should be getting more. It was quite clear that his comments were directed at those in our society who can work but chose not to do so because welfare pays better than work, and thusly his comments were directed at decades of policy which have developed our welfare state.
Casey displayed great bravery and conviction in not backing down to the left-wing-mob which was calling for his head, in the wake of his comments. His commitment to his beliefs and his show of strength in standing up for what the majority of people believe to be true will no doubt be rewarded by the voters of Ireland. Casey articulated extremely valid and relevant arguments in relation to traveller ethnicity and culture, a subject which has been taboo in this country for far too long. Further, his comments in relation to Ireland being a welfare state were balanced, considerate, and accurate. He is literally the only political hopeful, with the courage of his conviction to stand up and say what the vast majority of people are thinking.
Peter Casey pointed out, quite rightly, that he never created any divide, that he simply pointed out divides that already existed. Something which resonated with a serious number of voters. In the dying days of the election, Casey ignited debate and said what many people were thinking but couldn’t have dreamed of saying.
A poll was conducted in the run-up to Casey’s controversial comments. The poll had him in last place on just 2%. The reality, however, is that many tens of thousands of people moved their support to Casey after the poll was taken, something which is evident from the outpouring of support for him on social media in the last ten days. The coverage of the poll by the Sunday papers and media in general over the last week was bias in the extreme. Headlines hailed Michael D Higgin’s enormous lead in the poll, despite him being subjected to increased criticism over his use of a government jet, his expenses in general, and his bald-faced lie in relation to the PSNI’s ability to ensure his safety on a trip to Belfast. The police service in the North steadfastly refutes the President’s assertion that he had to fly to Belfast because of security concerns.
The media went out of their way to promote the notion that Casey was only on 2% and couldn’t possibly bridge the gap between himself and the incumbent. This media campaign designed to take the wind out of Casey’s sails may well backfire as Michael D supporters may not feel he needs their vote come election day. The poll in question should have been immediately dismissed as it was taken before his controversial comments made it into the mainstream media.
On Tuesday night, several polls were conducted online by the Iconic Newspapers groups of newspapers which include the following publications; Leitrim Observer, Kilkenny People, Longford Leader, Limerick Leader, Offaly Express, Leinster Leader, the Nationalist, Tipperary Star, and Donegal Democrat. By Wednesday night, Mr Casey led every poll, apart from two and not by a small margin. On Thursday morning, a poll which ran by TheJournal.ie had Mr Casey at 32% with circa 7,000 contributors pledging support for him. Michael D Higgins was leading that poll at 42% with about 9,200 contributors pledging their support for the incumbent.
In the days following Casey’s comments that Ireland has become a welfare state, pundits and political opponents of Casey took to the airwaves to attack him. He was consistently misquoted and misrepresented by talking-heads on various political talk shows on television and radio, in what was so obviously a concerted attempt to discredit him. Sinn Fein representatives and other left-leaning pundits in particular continuously asserted that Mr Casey was directing his comments at the disabled, elderly, and young people. However, this could not be further from the truth. In an open letter he released on Sunday, alongside his Sunday Independent interview, Casey clearly differentiated between the vulnerable in our society and those who simply expect the state to pay all their bills. Yet pundits and other candidates were given free rein to cut-down Mr Casey on prime-time television and radio in the days running into polling day.
Casey’s entire position from day one was that those who chose not to contribute to society take resources away from those who genuinely need them. His position could not have been clearer yet the mainstream media invested hours of airtime speculating as to who he was directing his comments. One of two things was happening, either every political pundit in the country neglected to read his full interview and open letter, or they deliberately went on air to perpetuate FAKE NEWS.
While it is now obvious to those who are awake and paying attention to the world around them, that Casey is not the write-off candidate the media have been making him out to be, he is not likely to win this election, even though he probably should. Michael D Higgins has been given the easiest of rides by the media who wanted to see him return for seven more years of extravagance in the Aras. Fake news is a phrase which has entered the popular lexicon in recent years, and until this election, it was but an American phenomenon but not anymore. The fake news pandemic has infected the Irish media and lazy journalists are now simply dictating a comfortable narrative that suits their agenda.
The only candidate who has made any discernable impact on this election has been Peter Casey. While the likes of Gavin Duffy and Joan Freeman are quite evidently compassionate, intelligent, and well-meaning, they simply didn’t connect with the electorate and are going to suffer embarrassing losses. Casey has said it like it is, stated the facts, and tried to inform the electorate about what it is he intends to use the presidency for, but much of that was lost in the noise of the election.
Win or lose, Casey is going to land a body blow to the obnoxiously vocal politically-correct-brigade this weekend. The margin between himself and Michael D Higgins is going to be much narrower than any of the pompous, political-snobs would like to believe, and who knows perhaps an upset is on the cards?