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Kathy Sheridan: Peter Casey’s flaws of ignorance

No heroic crusader, businessman knows very little and does not bother to find out

This much is agreed. In a housing crisis, the matter of the rejected council houses in Tipperary is infuriating. In fact, such rejections are infuriating regardless of which individual or group is involved.


Maybe. Yet reports that public housing offers are regularly turned down by settled folk rarely stick in the same way. In March, this paper reported that Dublin City Council had received 402 refusals of social housing offers in 2017 and 116 of those – nearly a third – had come from people listed as homeless.

Eight refused a second, different offer. In the previous two years, more than 3,000 housing offers had been turned down because of a property’s size or location.


When Peter Casey suggested that anyone who turns down such an offer should go to the bottom of the list, he was acclaimed as if a new Einstein walked the earth. Well, astonishingly, someone had already thought of that. If a homeless family refuse two offers they lose their "homeless priority" status, will get no further offer for a year and they lose 12 months of their waiting-list time. The "vast majority" of households accepted their second offer, according to Dublin City Council.

Casey knew nothing about this. He knew virtually nothing about the Tipperary standoff either when he travelled – bafflingly – to see the famous houses for himself and he knew nothing more coming back. He made no attempt to meet any Travellers; he didn’t want to “invade their privacy”, apparently.

Cluster of irritants

This is a problem we journalists can understand. Life is much easier if you don’t have to knock on strangers’ doors. Meeting the human face of your story tends to complicate matters; it means you have to stop generalising. You also have to win their trust. That’s when the feckers turn out to be individuals as opposed to a cluster of irritants. Among Travellers, you may be sure that most will be unemployed, have left school after primary, and are six times more likely to take their own lives than settled people. Suicide accounts for 11 per cent of their deaths. They comprise 10 per cent of the male and 22 per cent of the female prison population. All of them are role models for succeeding generations. If nothing else, that should give pause. It’s nearly always the better and braver thing to knock on the door.

This is about the only positive thing to be said in favour of these "straight-talkers": they are utterly transparent

Imagine if Casey had harnessed his enormous resources of time and money to inform himself fully.

There were only 30,000 Travellers in Ireland (just 0.7 per cent of the general population), he might have thought, then used his trip to Tipp to sit down with Travellers of all ages, put his evidence-based points to them candidly, listened carefully, then worked towards solutions – a skill at which successful entrepreneurs excel, allegedly.

He did none of that. Peter Casey is derided and feared by many not because he is the latest, heroic crusader against our old friend, political correctness. It is because he does not know what he is talking about. Worse, he has no intention of finding out. Locating the ignition was not remotely brave; harnessing the campaign horsepower to aim for something worthwhile would have been. The Renua leader, John Leahy, says there are no votes in trying to help Travellers, then offers the leadership of the party (on zero in the last Sunday Times/B&A poll) to Casey. This is about the only positive thing to be said in favour of these "straight-talkers": they are utterly transparent.

Poor critical thinkers

Yet many otherwise decent, highly educated individuals are prepared to glide past this inconvenient truth on the basis that Casey – one-third of an amorphous blob known as the Dragons a few weeks ago – is a crusader “unafraid to say things out loud”. It doesn’t make them racists. It makes them poor critical thinkers.

It also puts them in bed, oddly, with the editor of the Irish Catholic, Michael Kelly, who exults that Casey is "annoying all the right people and it's glorious!"; and with David Quinn, founder of the Iona Institute, gloating about the "thumping vote" for Casey "who would not bend the knee to all of the modern pieties". So Jesus Christ would be high-fiving Peter Casey, right?

This all happened in a week capped by the heinous killings of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Somehow the suspect, Robert Bowers, got the idea that "all Jews" had to die and that people fleeing some of the world's most murderous regions were "invaders". The other US terrorist of the week, Cesar Sayoc jnr, seemed to think that the only way to deal with Trump critics was not through civilised discourse and political activism but to murder them. How did that happen?

Political correctness: "The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against." (Oxford Dictionary)