Business figure and TV personality Peter Casey, who came from nowhere to secure the support of almost one in four voters in the Presidential election, is to try to build a new political movement on the back of apparent support for his right-wing populist comments.
Fianna Fail has flatly rejected a membership pitch from the Derry-born businessman. The tiny right-wing, anti-abortion Renua party has made overtures to Mr Casey in the hope he will take over the party leadership, but Mr Casey has spoken of the possibility forming new party.
Initially an outside contender in the presidential election, Casey’s vote surged in the last two weeks of the campaign following his comments about the Travelling community and social welfare recipients having a “sense of entitlement”.
Casey’s attempt to demonise those on the margins of society ignited the Irish presidential election campaign, when candidates normally speak in favour of inclusivity.
His support, which had been hovering around 1 per cent in some opinion polls prior to the contentious remarks, rocketed to 23 per cent in the election to secure an unexpected second place finish behind incumbent Michael D Higgins.
Immediately after the election result, the affable but scatter-shot political novice said he planned to join Fianna Fail and run as a candidate in Donegal at the next general election, adding: “And I am going to become a Fianna Fail TD with a view to becoming Taoiseach at the head of a renewed and revitalised Fianna Fail.”
Despite, or because of, his derogatory and self-contradicting opinions, Mr Casey continues to receive intense media coverage and publicity from RTE, the state broasdcaster appearing on Friday night on the flagship ‘Late Late’ show.
Outlining his political ambitions, the former television “Dragon” set out an unusual strategy for his next campaign.
“I will be running [for a Dail seat] in Donegal,” he told Late Late presenter Ryan Tubridy. “I might also run in perhaps one or two other constituencies as well.
“What I would do is I would have a running mate. And then I would step out; I would be encouraging the person to vote for my running mate and then before the actual date of having to put my name on the paper I would then let the other person go forward.”
Mr Casey said he would be targeting seats in Monaghan, Limerick, Clare and Kerry, where he secured strong support for his presidential bid.
A predictable attempt by Tubridy to ‘ambush’ the populist failed.
Mr Casey was confronted by members of the Travelling community in the studio audience, who criticised his rejection of their right to a distinct ethnic status. In response, he said discrimination was abhorrent to him and that “I have nothing to apologise for”.
However, he appeared to accept an invitation to visit Pavee Point, the centre representing the Travelling community. He also stood by his idea of providing accommodation for the Traveller community in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
“I made a suggestion that there is plenty of room in the Phoenix Park. If Travellers wanted to, why not give them . . . there’s 1,100 plus acres there, there’s loads of room, you could make it a beautiful place for them to stay,” he said, adding that they could go for five years and “get education”.