Peter Casey: Harkin pulling out caused me to shift sights to Europe

Derry man was considering running for Dáil before handing in EU election nomination

Peter Casey: his views on immigration and Travellers have been portrayed by opponents as ‘dog-whistle’ politics. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Peter Casey: his views on immigration and Travellers have been portrayed by opponents as ‘dog-whistle’ politics. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Businessman Peter Casey had intended as recently as two weeks ago to stand as a candidate for the Dáil in the next general election but changed his mind and decided to run for Europe instead after Sligo-based MEP Marian Harkin’s announcement she was stepping down.

In late March, Mr Casey said he wanted to stand in the Donegal constituency with a view to establishing a Dáil group of like-minded “pro-business TDs” that could “hold the balance of power”.

However, Mr Casey has now handed in his nomination to contest the European Parliament elections in the Midlands-North West constituency as an Independent candidate.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Thursday night he said once Ms Harkin announced she was stepping down, he began thinking of becoming a candidate in the European elections.

“She was strong and if she had stood she would have been very hard to beat. In addition to that all the nonsense going on with Brexit convinced me a strong voice was needed.

“It beggars belief that the House of Commons could not come to any conclusions even on the indicative votes. There is still a chance that the UK could crash out. I just feel I have a better chance of making an impact in Europe right now.

“Besides that, I don’t think there will be a Dáil election this year.”

Mild Eurosceptic

The Derry-born businessman, who finished second in the presidential election last October, is a critic of the EU but believes remaining a member is preferable to leaving.

He is also strongly pro-business and believes the State should limit the numbers of immigrants. He says he is not anti-immigrant and has criticised the conditions for immigrants in direct provision as “inhumane”. But his views on this issue, in addition to his refusal to recognise Travellers as an ethnic group, have been portrayed by opponents as provocative and “dog-whistle” politics.

Mr Casey said he had conducted polling that showed he had a good chance of a seat in the sprawling constituency, which takes in 13 counties.

There are three sitting MEPs standing in the election: Fine Gael’s Mairéad McGuinness; Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan; and Matt Carthy of Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil has two TDs standing in the election, Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte, and is expected to win one seat.

Setting out his reasons for opting for this election, Mr Casey said: “Rather than sitting on my hands for a year and waiting for a general, it made more sense to stand now. It is one of those things where I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. If I sat it out people would ask me what I have been doing.”

Following Britain

At his campaign launch on Thursday Mr Casey said remaining in the EU would be in Ireland’s best interests but “it would not be the end of the world” if we were to enter into a future arrangement with the European Free Trade Association.

“I think we will remain within the EU,” Mr Casey stated. “It would be in the best interests of Ireland to do so. But if Britain were to leave we would have the opportunity to decide … We just need to ensure we get the same deal as Britain does.”

“The National Broadband Plan needs to be scrapped,” he urged, “otherwise rural Ireland will not get the high-speed internet it needs if business is to flourish.”