People who get up early are the ones who ‘need help’, says Casey
Presidential candidate ‘absolutely’ had considered dropping out of race after criticism
Irish presidential candidate Peter Casey said the Irish Air Corps fleet should be replaced by a dozen helicopters. Photograph: PA Wire
Presidential candidate Peter Casey has said the people who get up early in the morning and pay taxes “are the people that need help” in Ireland.
Mr Casey was speaking following criticism of his comments claiming Ireland was becoming a “welfare-dependent state”.
On Monday, Mr Casey said “middle Ireland are the ones getting up every morning, paying their taxes and struggling to pay their children’s bills and school fees and everything else, they are the people that need help”.
The businessman and former Dragons’ Den investor, said “I don’t think Ireland is a welfare state”, before saying shortly afterwards he was “proud that we are a welfare state”.
“I think it’s important that we do look after the people who need help, it’s important that you know, the elderly, the people that are infirm, disabilities, it’s important that we look after the people that are in that unfortunate situation,” he said.
Mr Casey was speaking to media outside the Hilton Hotel, on the Malahide Road, north Dublin, where he met with the Stardust fire victims committee.
In a column published in the Sunday Independent, Mr Casey said Ireland was “slowly becoming a welfare-dependent state, with a sense of entitlement that’s become unaffordable”.
On Monday, Mr Casey said he “absolutely” had considered dropping out of the race, after comments he made in relation to the Traveller community were criticised as racist. Mr Casey was critical of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intervention on the issue. Mr Varadkar had referred to Mr Casey’s comments as “divisive.”
“You’ve got the Taoiseach coming out, he knows I’m not a racist, I’ve been to India much more often that he has over the last four or five years,” Mr Casey said. Mr Varadkar was born in Ireland, and his father is Indian.
Mr Casey also said the Irish Air Corps fleet should be replaced by a dozen helicopters, to act as air ambulances for rural Ireland, and to run search and rescue sea missions.
“We should get rid of the 27 aircraft and retrain and re-deploy the pilots, and get 12 maybe really state of the art helicopters,” he said.
“The helicopters should be used to airlift injured and sick people, in rural Ireland to the hospitals, that would be a real benefit to the people,” he said.
A spokesman for the Defence Forces outlined the Air Corps fleet already includes 10 helicopters.
Separately, presidential candidate Joan Freeman said she was “so proud” of her daughter Aislinne, who publicly revealed she was in a same-sex relationship, to dismiss any links between Ms Freeman and conservative Catholic group the Iona Institute.
Ms Freeman said her daughter had been frustrated for months “by the fact that I’m constantly accused of being a member of the Iona Institute”, and “felt she needed to speak about her same-sex relationship to silence the claims”.
Ms Freeman said she “never wanted Aislinne’s personal life to be dragged into this campaign”. However, she felt that this was her “opportunity to clear things once and for all”.