'Casey Isn't fit for the Aras' - travellers
Controversial presidential hopeful Peter Casey yesterday visited new homes for Traveller families - but made no attempt to meet any of them, claiming he did not want to "invade their privacy".
Mr Casey - who dropped in on the six-home development at Cabragh Bridge, outside Thurles, Co Tipperary - is in hot water over comments he made about Travellers in a podcast.
The entrepreneur and TV personality sparked a racism row when he told the Independent.ie that Travellers did not deserve special status.
He said they were "basically people camping on someone else's land".
He was later unapologetic for his comments, and said they were driven by a row over the €1.7m housing development in Tipperary.
He said a number of Traveller families were refusing to take possession of the houses because the county council will not give them land for horses.
The controversy led Leo Varadkar to intervene and effectively urge people not to vote for Mr Casey.
"His remarks were very divisive and I think they were largely designed to draw attention for him and his campaign," said the Taoiseach.
"I think they're really regrettable and I hope, that when the people of Ireland go out to vote next Friday, they will give Mr Casey and anyone who holds those views, a very clear message."
In Tipperary yesterday, Barry McCarthy, who lives at Cabragh Bridge with his wife, Melissa, said their six young children had been "very frightened" by Mr Casey's comments.
Representatives of Travellers groups claimed Mr Casey was "taking a leaf out of Trump's book".
As Mr Casey and his wife, Helen, arrived at Cabragh Bridge, he gazed at the houses and said "solar panels" under his breath.
Asked if he was going to go in, he said: "No. It's bonkers."
Asked if he was going to apologise or explain himself, he said he was at the development to explain his position.
"The Proclamation said we should cherish all the children equally," he said. "It doesn't say we should cherish some children more equal than others."
"Once I am President, I wouldn't be able to say anything, but now that I can, I think it's just wrong, downright wrong."
Asked if he was going to meet the families he said: "No, they know I'm here. If they want to meet me they can come down.I think it's wrong to invade somebody's privacy."
Asked what he wanted to achieve, he said: "People need to stand up and say something is wrong. There's people sleeping in the streets of Dublin tonight."
Pointed out to him that there was a legal process under way, he said it seemed to be taking a long time.
He claimed the support he has received has been "overwhelming".
When told that the families had lived at Cabragh Bridge for four generations, he was asked if he accepted that they had a legal right to live in the area, and said: "No, I don't."
And when asked why he had turned his focus on these six houses when the State is failing to build thousands of homes to solve the property crisis, he said: "I don't have the ability to do that. This is just an example. They want stables for horses and an acre of land."
Put to him that the families do have horses, Mr Casey sighed: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
After he had left, protesters walked peacefully down the road carrying placards with slogans like: "We want a President that represents all of Ireland."
Margaret Casey, of the Tipperary Rural Traveller Project, said Mr Casey's comments were racist.
"He is actually trying to divide members of the settled community," she said. He is not fit to be President of Ireland. He should step down."