“It’s been fun,” his partner quipped. This presidential election would be farcical, if it was not so pathetic. Peter Casey, Derry native and bigot, in the space of a fortnight first saw his vote doubled from one percent to two percent and then increased to over a fifth of all those who voted in the election. This ascent is clearly a result of his messages of hatred lighting a fuse among the darker elements of Irish society.
He claims this is due to his championing of middle Ireland; a middle Ireland he has represented by his ignorance, bigotry, and racism. If it was middle Ireland that voted for him, it reveals a rotten core of the Irish electorate, corrupted with hate. Yet if it was not middle Ireland, who voted for Peter Casey?
Anyone brave enough to venture into the toxic world of online comments would see that his supporters claim that “he says it as it is”, and that they are supporting his anti-political correctness brigade comments.
Ironic. Peter Casey attacking Travellers was the most establishment thing he has done this election, along with attacking recipients of social welfare. One wonders if his supporters realise this. The Irish state has been no friend to Irish Travellers since its inception. The events of recent years such as the granting of ethnicity were tokenistic gestures, not meaningful change. Enda Kenny, in his March 2017 announcement of the state’s long overdue recognition of Irish Travellers as an ethnic minority, explicitly said this would accrue no benefits as a result, either legally or financially.
Such facts seem to brush past Peter Casey who claimed this recognition gave such benefits throughout his campaign. He knew what would come of a campaign built on a quagmire of lies and misinformation. He knew how to appeal to the prejudices of a significant proportion of the Irish population. He knew how to manipulate them and has turned himself into the “free speech” hero of Ireland. Strange, as no one actually prevented him speaking while he spewed hate.
How clever he has been, to be able to convince hundreds of thousands of Irish people that he, a man who has spent most of life outside of Ireland, knows them. This wealthy multi-millionaire, who pays taxes in the US, not Ireland, in abrogation of his civic duty to the country he wished to lead. He claims that he no longer needs to reveal his tax returns since the Presidential election is over.
His transformation into the anti-establishment figure would be nothing short of stupendous, if it were not so dangerous. And yet if Casey is correct, middle Ireland flocked to him when he said that Travellers did not pay their share of taxes, and when he attacked people on social welfare. Middle Ireland was clearly blinded and deafened by their prejudices.
And let us not forget that in September, the Jewish Representatives Council of Ireland accused Casey of anti-Semitism after he claimed that Jewish people “basically live in the White House”. He is a man who clearly has never met a minority he has not felt the need to slander.
Of course, politicians have not come out to condemn this result, a fact to be expected given the history of Ireland’s leading parties. While the Taoiseach is one of the few who have condemned Casey, one would wish he would cast the same critical eye on his party. One would wish Micheál Martin would have been just as strong on the issue rather than desperately steering a middle ground for future electoral purposes. Such disgusting pandering reveals the stark reality of the country in which we live.
Casey has lost this election. Yet he has won something far more valuable. The support of a large, vocal, and bigoted section of Irish society. His so-called middle Ireland. A middle Ireland who should disown him as the miserable, miserly racist that he is.
A close friend and I were at Dublin Castle as the count was being returned. We spotted a chuffed Peter Casey approach with a small entourage, a massive smile on his face, shining as far away from the establishment as one could be. There was no one there to challenge him – just a cameraman, intent on finding the most flattering angle to take a picture of the Dragons’ Den star.
The response of middle Ireland at this time to this election could be one that defines the future of political life in Ireland. Does it embrace Peter Casey in his admiration of Donald Trump, or does it discard him in the cesspool of hate where he belongs?
Additional input and comment by Paul Molloy.