Peter Casey to march on with new Centre Party.
In an article in the Sunday Independent Mr Casey steadfastly refuses to apologise for his remarks, and attempts to open another front in his controversial campaign by describing Ireland as a “welfare-dependent state” which, he says, has led to a “sense of entitlement that’s become unaffordable”.
Mr Casey has secured nearly a quarter of the votes as the runner-up in the Irish presidential election.
He writes: “We have become a nation of people who expect, no demand, that the State looks after them. Pay all of their bills, provide them with homes, provide all sorts of social benefits.”
Yesterday, Fianna Fail Social Protection spokesman Willie O’Dea hit back at the businessman, saying his comments were an “attempt to breathe life into outdated rhetoric”.
However, the Sunday Independent can also reveal that at least four ministers in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar‘s Cabinet have opposed Traveller accommodation in their constituencies.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Arts Minister Josepha Madigan and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring have all supported local opposition to Traveller accommodation.
Today, Mr Casey, a former Dragons’ Den panellist, says he was going to quit politics after he was accused of being a racist over comments he made about the Travelling community.
However, he is now “more determined than ever to remain in politics” after being inundated with messages of support and getting such a massive vote for a first-time non-politician.
He also refuses to apologise for his comments about Traveller ethnicity because he believes they are “first and foremost” Irish citizens.
“I believe, if we all accepted them more as ‘Irish’, we would do so much more to remedy their long-standing problems, like chronic unemployment, homelessness, and a suicide rate that is six times the national average,” he says.
The under-fire businessman also uses the article to criticise what he calls “socialist politicians” who are focusing their attentions on welfare and social housing while forgetting “the bill-payers, the mortgage-payers and the taxpayers”.
Hours before writing his article, Mr Casey told the Sunday Independent during a telephone interview that he was “swaying towards pulling out” of the presidential race due to the controversy over comments he made about Travellers on Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast.
Mr Casey said he was considering quitting the race because his mother would not like to see him elected as president of Ireland while being accused of bigotry towards Travellers.
“Everyone who knows me knows there’s not a racist bone in my body,” he added.
During the interview, Mr Casey branded Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a “hypocrite” for attacking him while promoting ministers to Cabinet who opposed Traveller accommodation and ethnicity.
He also said the Taoiseach’s suggestion that people should vote against Mr Casey was “unconstitutional”.
And he accused Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan of calling him an “American blow-in who knows nothing about Irish politics” when he was campaigning for a Seanad seat.
“Charlie and I have history that goes back – we just don’t like each other,” Mr Casey said. Many would sympathise with Peter Casey who know Charlie.
The minister’s spokesperson said Mr Flanagan never watched Dragons’ Den and only became aware of Mr Casey once the presidential election campaign began.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent can reveal at least four Cabinet ministers appointed by the Taoiseach have opposed the construction of Traveller accommodation in their constituencies.
In July, two of Mr Varadkar’s local Fine Gael councillors voted against Traveller accommodation being developed in Coolquay on the edge of the Taoiseach’s constituency in West Dublin.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, who criticised Mr Casey last week, publicly supported the campaign to block the development.
The project, which involved relocating Travelling families who lived near Dublin Airport to allow for the construction of a new runway, was overwhelmingly supported by Fingal County Council.
Fine Gael’s Ethine Loftus and Kieran Denison were among the four councillors out of 40 who voted against the halting site.
Minister Doherty also confirmed she supported local residents who had serious concerns about the proposed site and potential risks of flooding.
More than 600 people lodged complaints over the development proposed for Coolquay which has a population of about 100 residents. The project was eventually stalled following a High Court case taken on behalf of the community.
Ms Doherty said, excusing herself, that local residents would have no issue with the halting site if an environmental impact study showed the area was suitable for the Traveller accommodation and posed no flood risks.
The Taoiseach’s spokesman said he was “broadly supportive” of the Coolquay halting site as it would facilitate the expansion of Dublin Airport. However, he noted the “proposal for Traveller accommodation in a neighbouring constituency, not in the Taoiseach’s constituency of Dublin West”.
“In 15 years as a councillor and TD, the Taoiseach has never opposed Traveller accommodation in his own constituency,” he added.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also opposed Traveller accommodation in his home town of Mountmellick, Co Laois, in the 1990s. Mr Flanagan’s spokesperson said he voted with Fine Gael councillors. The Minister was also a vocal critic of the Government’s decision to give special recognition to Traveller ethnicity. His father was well known as an outspoken critic of Ireland’s Jews!
Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring has also successfully opposed the development of a halting site in his native Westport, Co Mayo, in the 1980s.
Arts Minister Josepha Madigan was criticised for publicly campaigning against the development of halting site in Mount Merrion in South County Dublin.
Yesterday, Mr Casey said: “Leo obviously has no problem appointing people to Cabinet who hold similar views to me.”
Now Peter Casey is considering the establishment of a new Centre Party as a vehicle to force all the changes he deems necessary in Irish politics and especially to take on the PC State.