When I first heard presidential candidate Peter Casey’s comments on the Traveller community I was disappointed, but not surprised.
I am a young Traveller man from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Ballinasloe is renowned for having a strong Traveller population. I have witnessed both discrimination of Travellers by the settled community and the exploitation of the settled community by the Travelling community first hand.
One quote from Mr. Casey’s derogatory rant that stood out to me instantly was: “They are encouraged to think that they are different, they are not. They should think and act as Irish people, not necessarily as different to everyone else, then their children end up thinking that they are different and it’s harder for their children to fit into society.”
My response to this is simply- it is an uphill task to merge into society when you feel that you will not be accepted.
If you don’t believe my words, I present statistics from a survey conducted by Micheál Mac Gréil S.J., of NUI Maynooth in 2010 among the settled community.
- 60.1% would not welcome a Traveller as a member of their family.
- 72.3% support Travellers ‘to live their own way of life decently’ down 20.7% since 1989.
- 63.7% reject Travellers based on ‘their way of life’.
- 18.2% would deny Irish Citizenship to Travellers.
This puts pressure on Travellers to contribute to society. When Travellers saw the findings of this survey it upset us because we now expect to be written off straight away. I personally have witnessed and experienced difficulties merging into society. From being denied entry into nightclubs and being told “not tonight lads” due to the potential threat that letting Travellers into clubs has or hearing non-Travellers use the words “knacker” or “pikey” to describe people that they don’t like. Derogatory terms such as these have been used to label Travellers for generations.
There are many people who also have the same opinion and beliefs as Mr. Casey, who will give him their number one vote for this reason.
The divide between Travellers and non-Travellers is well and truly alive, in 2018.
I personally believe that the primary role of the President of Ireland should be to represent every man, woman and child from every race, religion and ethnic group that exists in the country.
From listening to Peter Casey on ‘The Floating Voter’ podcast and reading his quotes from various interviews, I don’t believe that he is the right person to be President Higgins’ successor.
I don’t believe that Mr. Casey can properly represent the Traveller community due to his core beliefs.
I respect the fact that people have had negative moments from the settled community and with members of my community. I’ve also had to deal with negative attitudes from the settled community in Irish society, but like my community, I know the bad eggs are the minority.
For the most part, people just want to live happy lives, without fear and distrust. That means both sides need to start trusting each other.