Belfast Telegraph

Derry's Peter Casey tells 'Indian' Varadkar to 'shut your trap' over Irish presidential election comments

By Kevin Doyle

Presidential candidate Peter Casey has accused the Taoiseach of unfairly intervening in the election, saying Leo Varadkar should "shut his trap".

The businessman has withdrawn from public events this weekend "to think carefully about whether to continue in the race".

He is refusing to back down from his view that Travellers should not be considered an ethnic minority.

But Mr Casey admitted to being shaken by the reaction from rival candidates, interest groups and politicians.

While in Brussels for the crucial EU summit on Brexit, Mr Varadkar urged voters to send Mr Casey "a very clear message" at the ballot box next Friday.

However, Mr Casey believes it was "totally out of order for the Taoiseach to get involved and make statements that impact the presidential election".

He went on to described the Taoiseach as "being a member of an ethnic community himself" and "being Indian".

Mr Varadkar's father is Indian, but he was born in Ireland and has lived here all his life. A spokesperson for the Taoiseach declined to respond.

Mr Casey has faced widespread calls to drop out of the presidential race following his comments about Travellers on Independent.ie's 'Floating Voter' podcast.

He has become the most-talked about candidate after claiming Travellers are "basically people camping in someone else's land".

Yesterday he denied adopting Trump-like tactics to try push up his polling figures.

"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."

The Irish-American businessman told Galway Bay FM he is not "in any way racist".

He noted that he grew up in Derry where Catholics were discriminated against in terms of voting rights and jobs.

A decision on whether to withdraw from the race will be announced on Monday - but even if he does quit the race, Mr Casey's name will still appear on the ballot paper.

According to the Department of Local Government the last date on which a candidate can formally removing their name was September 26.

Mr Casey said he will not make any decision lightly.

"I haven't said anything that is wrong," he said, adding: "For the other Dragons and other candidates, in particular Michael D, for them to say and suggest that I'm a racist is just so wrong. They look to themselves in the mirror."

Central to Mr Casey's argument has been the case of six unoccupied homes built at a cost €1.7m. A number of Traveller families are refusing to move in on the basis that they want access to land for their horses.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has now said that the dispute in Tipperary "can be resolved and will be resolved".

"We will work to finding a resolution. They're fantastic homes," he said.

Irish Independent

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