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Peter Casey to 'think carefully about whether to continue' in presidential race

Casey has been sharply criticised for his comments about Travellers in recent days.

0651 Peter Casey campaign launch_90555669 Source: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PETER Casey has said that he is considering pulling out of the race, and that he will not campaign this weekend with only a week left until the election.

Casey has come under sustained criticism in recent days for a series of comments about the Travelling community, across a variety of media appearances.

In a statement this morning, he said: “In light of the events of the past few days, I am taking the weekend off from the campaign to think carefully about whether to continue in the race.

I do not want the people of Ireland to elect me as President of Ireland just based on one statement I made.
I want to be of service, and make a real difference. I have the expertise and ability to be an influencer. I want to connect people, at home and abroad. I know that my world experience and global views will make me a uniquely suitable candidate for President of Ireland – with drive, ability and energy.

The issue came to the fore after Casey’s comments on the Irish Independent’s Floating Voter podcast earlier this week.

He said Travellers should not be recognised as an ethnic minority because they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land”, and that Travellers are “not paying their fair share of taxes in society”. 

Rather than back down from the comments, he expanded on them and doubled down in a series of interviews, campaign stops and in Wednesday night’s Pat Kenny debate on Virgin Media One, at one point telling the other candidates they were being “disingenuous” when they gave positive answers to a question on how they would feel about living near a halting site.  

Casey’s comments about Traveller ethnicity have been decried as racist by a number of his fellow candidates and Traveller groups, and there have been calls for him to drop out of the campaign.

Standing at the site of a dispute between a Tipperary Traveller family and the local authority in Thurles yesterday, Casey called these claims “nonsense”.

I think it’s just nonsense, they’re not a different race. The Proclamation says every child should be cherished equally, and there’s not a racist bone in my body. I believe they’re equal to everyone else, I don’t believe they’re better or worse than anybody.
Casey’s campaign stop in Tipperary was arranged at the last-minute. His schedule for yesterday was released on Wednesday afternoon at the height of the backlash to his initial comments to the Irish Independent and after the candidate himself had gone to ground.
 

A spokesperson for Casey said this morning that the campaign was not being suspended, and that the businessman planned to meet with his team on Sunday after taking some time off the trail.

- With reporting from Daragh Brophy 

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Sean Murray

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