The Dragon who fired up the Irish presidential election

Peter Casey's bid to become Irish president was going badly until he went on the attack

What is about presidential elections recently, and the forces of ignorance and darkness they uncover?

Or merely expose to the light.

The world’s oldest petulant teenager, the one with the 55.6 million Twitter followers, now RUNS THE SHOW in America.

Ireland went to the polls last week to choose their new president.

At least our terror of the undeserving underclasses, Peter Casey, only came second here.

The incumbent, Michael D Higgins, was voted in again.

But the real story of the Irish presidential election is how well Casey did – one in five voted for him – and what his relative success has revealed about what is really going on in this country.

Layers of disaffection, division, and dissatisfaction have been peeled back, to show things our political leaders and opinion-shapers would sooner ignore, or pass over.

As the political pundits might put it, Peter Casey has started a conversation.

Only it’s an ugly conversation that brings out the very worst in so many people: bigotry and bile given expression in a man “not afraid to say it like it is”.

Sounds familiar, huh?

To become Ireland’s President for the second time, Higgins had to beat two women candidates and three businessmen investors, each of whom appeared as dragons on Ireland’s version of Dragons’ Den.

I kid you not.

Unlike in America, the Irish President holds a largely ceremonial role.

He represents the country abroad, and at home, when he is not greeting dignitaries, he supports and encourages local initiatives.

That’s largely it!

The President is not active in day to day politics here, and indeed must appear impartial and above all that.

Really, what the people are looking for in a president is someone who looks the part, and knows the right fork to use at State dinners.

Michael D Higgins certainly fitted the bill; a warm, charming individual: poet, professor, he was a long-time leftist member of parliament and altogether a man who has done the State some service.

But somehow, as happened in the last presidential election campaign in the United States, the Irish presidential election became a vehicle for disaffected voters to rock the old political “establishment”.

In America, they put all their egos in one basket-case and voted in Donald Trump.

And here, as in the US, a rich “business man” somehow became a voice for those who feel government and the elite that run everything for themselves, had forgotten about “Them”.

A very particular “Them”: small-minded people with big ideas about themselves as unsung heroes, working, commuting, paying crazy mortgages and outrageous child-care … underpaid, over-taxed, and just sick of never getting ahead.

While others shirk and “milk the system”.

It’s not as if the rest of us don’t feel the pinch or feel let down. We just don’t believe the solution lies in looking out for “Big Daddy” figures to sort it all out for us.

But Peter Casey came along, and suddenly he was speaking for “Them”.

This dilettante nobody listened to when he was hitting golf balls into the sea and wittering on about tapping into the Irish Diaspora to make Ireland great again.

He then has a pop at Ireland’s equivalent of the gypsies, known here as Travellers, and suddenly it’s a whole new campaign.

Initially, the critics are out in force and he is talking about conceding.

But then it becomes obvious a lot of people agree with him, and he gets a second wind. And then it really blows up strong.

Ireland has over 30,000 Travellers, the Irish equivalent of gypsies, and they fought long and hard for ethnic minority status, and rights, complaining about the abuse they have been historically subjected to on the foot of the actions of a small anti-social minority.

In the context of world events, it is not hard to believe there is a push towards picking on the marginalised and on ethnic minorities, because it is very easy to blame such people for society’s ills, and ultimately they are people with very little power.

A recent article in the Irish Times newspaper described the attitude of far too many in the so-called settled community here towards Travellers as “racism for liberals”, with the clinking classes often talking about Travellers in the most negative terms in private.

Ultimately, there is mistrust and a lack of respect on both sides.

It is a complex issue which can only be resolved by proper dialogue, in a spirit of mutual respect.

But on came Casey to question the very idea of Travellers having special status.

He described them as “basically people camping in other people’s land”, that “house prices drop in areas where they settle”, and that they are “not paying their fair share of taxes in society”.

Nasty, divisive stuff from a supposed president “for all the people”, but it worked in his favour, as echoing the feelings of a huge number of people, he got their votes.

And exposed the dark side of smiling Ireland of the welcomes.

The ripostes to his claims came from all sides of the political spectrum. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, effectively warned voters to shun Casey, but many voters did not agree.

Suddenly, he was all over the media, and hasn’t left the arena since.

Defending himself, or expanding on his “ideas” for a better Ireland, journalists can’t they can’t get enough of him, or he of them.

And the voters are listening. The legions of the disaffected have leaped on board.

The rest of the candidates in the race for the Irish presidency were forgotten in the final run-in and it was just him and cuddly little Michael D, all tweedy bonhomie and bravura.

A man to charm Queen and country.

Luckily Higgins had been president for the last seven years and had done a great job. He was expected to be returned on a landslide vote.

He did get back in easily enough, but Casey looks also to have been encouraged, and he is even talking of leading his own political movement.

He is tapping into something.

He is no longer being laughed at like some deluded David Brent figure.

Have our media learned anything about encouraging the dangerous rhetoric of a man despotedly seeking power and vain-glory?

Our racist-who-is-not-a-racist is booked in for the country’s biggest talk show, where your host, Ryan Tubridy, might think he is poking the bare-faced vanity of the man, but really he is giving him a platform. And airing his own lack of courtesy and balance.

It really is hard to credit how Casey has risen to these heights when one considers just how farcical his performance was in the early days of the election campaign.

The multimillionaire made an absolute fool of himself early on by first of all putting out a video online of himself walloping a golf ball out to sea, saying this was the only “driver” he would use to take him around the country as president, and then posting a second video showing himself supposedly fishing the same ball out, after environmentalists made a bit of a fuss.

On the first few TV presidential debates, he smiled inanely as his attempts at humour and flippancy went down like his original golf shot.

Then came his attack on Irish Travellers.

Peter Casey’s performance in the Irish presidential election has served as a message from middle-Ireland to the major political parties: we have to talk about Travellers, and other things, and you won’t like what we have to say.

We should be very afraid

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Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

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37 comments on “The Dragon who fired up the Irish presidential election

  1. It’s happening everywhere, it seems, not just in Ireland. Trump has done a spectacular job in dividing the US with his politics of hatred, our referendum left the racists feeling legitimised, all across Europe parties of the far right have been making significant gains, and don’t even mention Brazil! I have always tried to see the good in people but this outpouring of hitherto latent bigotry is giving me second thoughts on that.


  2. It is a worrying development Clive … like you say it’s like these darker forces have only been lying dormant,and come out when given the opportunity. It’s amazing to see people nodding in agreement at these guys who are “not afraid to say it like it is”.In other words to target the people they think are ruining their lives. As if somehow Trump and his like care about the ones not doing too good. Madness, and a kind of madness we have seen at other darker periods in history


  3. An informative, sad and worrying read. I don’t really know what else to say – we are living in very troubling times and I hope our young people can change that and the sooner the better #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • So do I!!! They will have to get a little less self-involved and a little more informed on the things that really matter!


  4. “You come out at the end of it all and ask yourself ‘what was that all about?’ and you really don’t know. You just know it wasn’t good.” I think this just about sums up any type of politics these days. Very worrying indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for wading through it Anne … I’m afraid it isn’t a very optimistic piece… hope the erst of the week is more positive!!!


  5. oh, god. As an embarrassed/enraged American, I apologize for the effect the Orange Lord has had on the rest of the world, especially in the sense you describe here. We’ve taken this “you can be anything you want when you grow up” thing too far.
    If it makes you feel any better, the Oompa Loompa is gracing my hometown tomorrow with his hateful presence in light of the massacre that occurred in my hometown this past Saturday. He is most unwelcome, considering he describes himself as a white nationalist and the massacre was the largest of Jews in US history.
    We’re all screwed.


  6. Very informative and it shows that the world is going crazy. #Mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mackenzieglanville

    There feels like there is no escaping it, even in Australia #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said & very well written! All great points! #DreamTeam


  9. An Ordinary Mom

    I hadn’t been following the Irish elections here in America but the title of your piece drew me in and I had to learn more. It sounds like there are a lot of parallels that could be drawn with the election there and our last one here in America.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s all a bit worrisome!!! At least our president cant do as much damage as yours!! Thanks for reading and commenting’


  10. Well Enda, I am speaking from someone who comes from a small island nation that has swallowed the bitter populist pill and is suffering for it massively. Ireland voted sensibly this time, but next time, who knows casey may get lucky. Sadly, though, this is happening all over the world. Britain may have been first by voting for something as disastrous and divisive as Brexit, but the signs were already in Hungary and Poland and in those nations, things have got worse. then came the voting of Trump in the US. Australia has had similar battles. It’s a very sorry state of world affairs at this point in time. I’m just glad you guys took the path of moderate liberalism on this occasion.


    • Hi John. Luckily enough for us, Michael D Higgins was a strong candidate. Old – he is 77 – but popular, and impressive. Casey was actually a bumbling, unpolished performer, but the real issue, or worry, I guess is what he, and the examples you have given from other countries, including your own, is what they have all tapped into. There are very real fears out there, that jobs and old career paths, and securities such as religion and education, are all under threat. It’s just that looking to fascists and “strong leaders” to see us through troubled times is so not what is needed. History shows us that at times of strife and insecurity, too many people vote for dictator types. Rather than uniting and trying to reach proper solutions. And we know where that gets us!


  11. scary times all over the world and hard to explain. It seems as if a cloud of dissastisfaction has settled over humanity and too many people are looking for others to blame for how they feel. #blogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh End, and I wrote about our ‘twittiot’ in chief this week too! Sad that his type is spreading, like a horrid dis-ease. #thesatsesh xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m afraid I’ve stuck my head deep down in the sand as a method of self-preservation… I can’t cope with all the worries of the world, I wouldn’t be of any real help in it all even if I did, as it would just leave me depressed and deflated. Also, I don’t really see any politicians that I feel are trustworthy… #MixItUp

    Liked by 1 person

  14. On behalf of my country, America, I am so sorry that our sad, pathetic excuse for a president is spreading his disease to other parts of the world. This is truly scary and if feels unending. I think you’re right about it being like the dark forces were just laying dormant until their “messiah” rose up and now it’s being unleashed upon the world. What worries me the most though aren’t these so-called leaders but the followers. I am still so baffled – more than baffled – dumbfounded at how many people blindly follow Trump as if he is even close to the equivalent of Jesus or something. The blind sheep willingly following the big bad wolf to their own slaughter. Crazy! Just Crazy! We are supposed to be better than that. #MixitUp

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s where I agree so much … not so much the “messiah” as what following him says about an uncomfortably large number of people! And how bad history repeats itself: in time of doubt, looking to the liars and the bluffers for guidance! Thanks for your great comment

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think it’s a worldwide phenomenon that people are utterly dissatisfied – I can see it from both points of view. What I absolutely loathe is the smear campaigns and absolutism of each side. Meet in the middle and act like grownups! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Very informative. It is a scary time at the moment. Thanks for being with us on the #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  17. #thesatsesh it’s global…I teach politics to yr 10 and 11 and the worlds poilticians are making my subject a laughing stock, heaven knows what kind of world we will have in a decades time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to see change coming from young people wasting that wonderful potential on snapchat and all those distractions. Too many youngsters too self-involved to worry about matters outside themselves, except to criticise and reject. Too much effort involved in constructive examination and action. Do I sound cynical!!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. His popularity just shows how many people are quietly agreeing with him, and I think that that will always be the case – no matter who rises up and sprouts their own brand of crazy, there will be a host of people who are in agreement. What I find interesting is how social media seems to fan the flames into out of control fires so fast, everyone throws out their opinion without taking the time to think things through. I know little about politics but it seems to have become all about sensationalism. #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about the complicity of a craven/lazy media in all this. Instead of rigorous analysis of contentious ideologies we get deliberately confrontational encounters designed for entertainment purposes which actually allow these things to pass unchallenged. It seems to me the danger is when the critlcal mass of people swallowing this bullshit reaches high enough levels the despots and the rabblerousers take control. Riding the anger of these poor idiots to power and then using them to maintain that power. We can only hope the tide turns sufficiently in the US and elsewhere to stave off this hellish scenario. But I wonder ..

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Daydreamer mum

    This is a worrying time I think, everywhere. Where once people with bigoted views were maybe quiter they’re now been given huge platforms to spread their word and because a lot of people are unhappy they see this ‘difference’ as revoltionary and new and dynamic whereas I think in reality people had just worked really hard to make bigoted rhetoric a thing of the past. Really unsure what the solution is either #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hopefully Trump will be given enough rope to hang himself before he does too much damage … and have it serve as an example to right wingers worldwide? Maybe … have to hope, don’t ya?


  20. You know what, I just don’t watch or read anything political anymore because it just makes me so depressed. Where are all the decent humans in politics and why aren’t they in charge? Makes me scared how awful people with such terrifying believes like Trump can be in charge of running a country #thesatsesh


    • I think one of the scariest things about Trump is he doesn’t have the discipline or concern about others to form actual beliefs. So he is open to manipulation and whim. We can only stop people like him one vote at a time. That’s why it’s important to not put our heads in the sand but remain informed, and therefore more likely to make better voting choices.


  21. I don’t know enough about Irish politics to have an opinion but from what I’ve read here it sounds very worrying. Thank you for sharing with #TriumphantTales


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