Belfast Telegraph

Derry Irish presidential candidate insists he's not Trump lite after anti-Traveller row

Speaking out: Peter Casey
Speaking out: Peter Casey

By Aoife Moore

Irish presidential candidate Peter Casey has insisted he is not basing his campaign on Donald Trump.

Mr Casey, who has come under increased scrutiny and has had some of his comments labelled "populist" and "racist" by other candidates, said there are stark differences between what he has said and statements made by the US President about different ethnic groups.

Some critics have compared the Londonderry businessman's political campaign, and in particular his recent comments on the Traveller community, to Mr Trump's bid for the Oval Office.

"It disappointed me when he got elected, but I did predict it because when you live there, America is a racist society," he said of Mr Trump.

"I think his behaviour is indefensible, and you can't defend the indefensible and I would certainly not want to."

Mr Casey came under fire earlier this week after saying that Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority, because they are "basically people camping in someone else's land", and the group are "not paying their fair share of taxes in society".

Amid pointed exchanges in an interview yesterday morning, during which Mr Casey's staff moved to shut down some lines of questioning, the candidate told the Press Association he stands by his comments.

He said: "If Travellers think that I slighted their community in any way, they're wrong, I did not."

After a series of questions on the controversy in the on-camera interview, Mr Casey announced that he was considering withdrawing from the race.

On Thursday Mr Casey visited Thurles with a large contingent from the media to see the site of a housing dispute between the local Traveller community and the county council.

New houses were built for Travellers at an area in Cabragh Bridge, but they currently lie empty as the community says the development does not include the land they were promised to graze their horses on.

When asked about the visit, which he said was a fact-finding expedition, Mr Casey insisted the Traveller community was wrong on the matter. It was reported that a Traveller's children had been left frightened after hearing about his comments, broadcast on a podcast, from other children at school.

Asked if he thought that was fair, Mr Casey replied: "Children don't listen to podcasts.

"The councillors (in Tipperary) are being bullied by the Traveller community down there and I think it's a disgrace.

"The reason his children are being subjected (to negative comments) is because they didn't move into the house."

In a later statement on whether he would consider staying in the race, Mr Casey said; "I do not want the people of Ireland to elect me as President of Ireland just based on one statement I made."

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