THE HOT PRESS IN­TER­VIEW…

Hot Press - - Hot Press / 4219 / Contents - In­ter­view: Ja­son O’Toole Pho­tog­ra­phy: Miguel Ruiz

Ja­son O’Toole meets con­tro­ver­sial busi­ness­man Peter Casey, who seemed like a Pres­i­den­tial no­hoper un­til he took a swipe at traÛeerð e wnaÞ raced into sec­ond place – but did the peo­ple who put an ‘X’ op­po­site his name have any idea who or what they were vot­ing for?

He seemed like a Pres­i­den­tial no-hoper un­til he took a swipe at Trav­ellers – and ob­jected to the fact that the State has granted them the sta­tus of a sep­a­rate eth­nic group. As a re­sult of what were widely con­sid­ered racist re­marks, he was given max­i­mum me­dia ex­po­sure – and raced fi­nally into sec­ond place, with more votes than the other four con­tenders com­bined. But did the peo­ple who put an ‘X’ op­po­site his name have any idea who or what they were vot­ing for?

The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was al­ways go­ing to be a one­horse race. As the most pop­u­lar Ir­ish states­man in liv­ing his­tory, Pres­i­dent Michael D. Hig­gins – rid­ing high with over 60 per­cent ap­proval rat­ings in the opin­ion polls – looked homed and hosed be­fore a vote was cast. And so it proved. Orig­i­nally polling at one or two per­cent, no­body ex­pected Peter Casey to achieve any higher than sec­ond last – if he was lucky. But the sur­prise story of the elec­tion turned out to be how the Derry na­tive ul­ti­mately shot into dou­ble dig­its.

In an oth­er­wise dull elec­tion, this ‘Drag­ons’ Den can­di­date’ – the third to en­ter the elec­tion – sud­denly be­came the main talk­ing point when he took a side­swipe at the trav­el­ling com­mu­nity. The ques­tion was asked: did Ire­land now have its very own an­swer to the ex­e­crable Don­ald Trump?

A lot of peo­ple were up in arms. The Taoiseach, Leo Varad­kar, ac­cused the man of be­ing racist and urged the pub­lic not to vote for him. Rather than ex­tin­guish his cam­paign, the con­tro­versy seemed to help ig­nite it.

The surge in sup­port for Casey didn’t re­ally sur­prise Hot Press. Days be­fore the elec­tion, on on­line fo­rums you could see a grow­ing trend of peo­ple talk­ing about vot­ing for him. But no­body fore­cast that the 61-year-old would end up with 23.3% – more than the com­bined votes of Seán Gal­lagher, Li­aidh Ní Ri­ada, Joan Free­man and Gavin Duffy.

De­spite his new-found pro­file, very lit­tle is known about the Derry busi­ness­man, who made his for­tune in Aus­tralia and the US. This Hot Press In­ter­view should hope­fully go a long way to­wards fin­ish­ing the jig­saw...

Ja­son O’Toole: You cer­tainly came out swing­ing in this elec­tion. Did you get into many scraps as a kid?

Peter Casey: I tended to get into a lot of fights. There was a guy called Patsy O’Hara who lived down the street. He was a lead­ing player in the INLA and the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the INLA in Long Kesh (Prison). He died on hunger strike. He and I did not get on at all. We used to fight at least once a week. It tough­ened me up. But he al­ways won (laughs) – ex­cept for one oc­ca­sion I man­aged to get the bet­ter of him.

Did you rub shoul­ders with any other alumni we might’ve heard of?

My­self and Paddy John­ston were great friends. Paddy went on to be the Pres­i­dent of Queens Univer­sity. He trag­i­cally passed away about 18 months ago. Paddy and I were in the same class as Arch­bishop Martin’s brother, John Martin. The other per­son in that class was De­clan McGuin­ness, Martin’s brother. Patsy O’Hara was in my class at the Chris­tian Broth­ers. He did not go to St Columbs Col­lege as he did not pass the 11 plus. Talk about an eclec­tic bunch of school­mates. My fa­ther gave John Hume his first job in the book­shop in St Columb’s Col­lege. That’s one of the rea­sons he got me in­vited over to the White House.

Did you have any fam­ily mem­bers af­fected by the Trou­bles?

No. I had friends who died at an early age. I was on the Bloody Sun­day march. One of my class­mates be­came a mem­ber of the IRA and died. He’d been blow-up when a bomb went off. You get tough­ened by it.

Did you ever have any dicey ex­pe­ri­ences?

I ac­tu­ally shot my­self one time! My grand­fa­ther had a two/two ri­fle. I picked it up and didn’t re­alise that it was loaded and it went off and I frac­tured my shoul­der. And I was knocked down twice by cars. Run­ning across the road, I was run over.

What were your hob­bies?

I used to go ri­ot­ing af­ter school! That was what you did in those days. If you weren’t good at foot­ball you went ri­ot­ing (laughs). Throw­ing stones at sol­diers and they’d shoot rub­ber bul­lets. If no­body got hit by it there was a mad rush to get it. We’d sell their rub­ber bul­lets.

Did you have a ha­tred for the Brits?

Oh, no. No. Of course not. Hate is not a word that is in my vo­cab­u­lary. As a fam­ily, my chil­dren aren’t al­lowed to use the word in any con­text.

Did you ever think about join­ing the IRA?

Ah, no. A cou­ple of my close friends were ar­rested and given six months for ri­otous be­hav­iour and that re­ally was a wake-up call for me.

Do you think the IRA where jus­ti­fied in their ac­tions?

No. I don’t think you can, in any way, jus­tify killing a mother of ten peo­ple. I don’t think you can, in any way, jus­tify the atroc­i­ties that were car­ried out. I’m anti-vi­o­lence. I mean, I used to go down and throw stones – but that wasn’t any vi­o­lence: we called it ‘The Mati­nee’.

How im­por­tant was chas­ing girls when grow­ing up?

I wasn’t very suc­cess­ful (laughs). My first date and re­la­tion­ship was

when I went to univer­sity. I was too busy play­ing ping pong and hand­ball – and ri­ot­ing! Girls didn’t be­come a thing un­til I was 19. I plucked up the courage to ask this girl out and I took her for a burger and I told her I loved her (laughs). I wouldn’t rec­om­mend that. I said, ‘I re­ally think we’ll be mar­ried one day!’ She said, ‘Shut up!’ (Laughs). But she kept see­ing me.

I pre­sume your first time was with her.

She was a very re­li­gious Catholic – or so she said. She said, ‘We’ll have no sex un­til we’re mar­ried’. I said fine, think­ing I could prob­a­bly con­vince her. Then to­wards the end of the sec­ond year, it turns out while she was keep­ing her prom­ise to not have sex with me – she was hav­ing sex with al­most ev­ery­body else (laughs)!

You laugh about it now.

It wasn’t funny at the time. I said to her, ‘How do you think I feel? Ev­ery­body knows you’re hav­ing sex. And ev­ery­one knows I’ve never had sex’. She said, ‘You’d worry less what other peo­ple think about you if you re­alised how sel­dom they do!’ Talk about a knife in the back!

How old were you when you lost your vir­gin­ity?

It was into the twen­ties (laughs). It was my early twen­ties – I don’t want to be spe­cific so that some­body might work out who she was (laughs)!

Was it all you hoped it would be?

Oh God, no! It was prob­a­bly the worst ten sec­onds of my life!

Why?

Be­cause it was the worst ten sec­onds of her life too prob­a­bly (laughs).

Did you ever ques­tion your sex­u­al­ity?

Never.

Have you ever been with a pros­ti­tute?

For­tu­nately, I’ve never had to use the ser­vices of a pros­ti­tute (laughs). I don’t know have any strong views ei­ther way on it. I would like to think that we can get a so­ci­ety where peo­ple don’t have to sell their body for money. But I wouldn’t put peo­ple in jail for it.

Have you ever tried mar­i­juana?

I never tried it. At univer­sity, I ac­tu­ally never took spir­its ei­ther, just beer. I still don’t drink spir­its much. A bot­tle of whiskey would last me a year. I do like good wine. I’ve plas­tic rods put in my back be­cause I have de­gen­er­a­tive disk dis­ease but I can’t take opi­ates be­cause they con­sti­pate me. I get nau­seas with them. They have a re­ally bad ef­fect. The strong­est drug that I can ac­tu­ally take is parac­eta­mol. I was pre­scribed med­i­cal mar­i­juana. It’s ac­tu­ally so much bet­ter. Well, I just can’t take the other hard drugs. I’m to­tally op­posed to the il­le­gal hard drugs. And I can’t take the le­gal ones (laughs).

Do you think mar­i­juana should be le­galised?

I don’t think it does any harm at all. It doesn’t seem to have caused any huge prob­lems in Am­s­ter­dam. It doesn’t seem to have made Am­s­ter­dam fall apart. The Nether­lands is one of the most tol­er­ant coun­tries. The dis­cus­sion should be had and the peo­ple should have a vote on it. I’d vote yes.

How did you vote on the Eighth Amend­ment?

I am in favour of a woman’s right to choose. I had to strug­gle with that one be­cause I’m not nec­es­sar­ily sure men should’ve had a say in it be­cause they’re never go­ing to need an abor­tion.

Renua leader John Leahy said you’d be wel­come to join their party be­cause he thought you held sim­i­lar views to their anti-abor­tion po­si­tion. Would you be tempted by Renua?

No. I have a deep re­spect for Lu­cinda. It took an aw­ful lot of courage for her to do what she did. But I think Ire­land to­day is, un­for­tu­nately, locked into Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. If you want to have an im­pact, you have to align with one of those par­ties. The one I would be most aligned with would be Fianna Fáil. I’d be more left of cen­tre philo­soph­i­cally. I came from a very large fam­ily and we had very poor be­gin­nings.

How did you vote in the mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum?

I’m to­tally in favour of mar­riage equal­ity. It’s ap­pro­pri­ate that we recog­nise that lov­ing cou­ples can be male or fe­male. I’m sur­prised it took us so long to get there.

Would you have any ob­jec­tions to gay cou­ples adopt­ing?

Ab­so­lutely none what­so­ever. The same rules should ap­ply for any adop­tion – they have to have sta­bil­ity: emo­tional sta­bil­ity, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, so that the adopted child will go into a sta­ble home.

If some­body of­fered you a deal that you could be Taoiseach to­mor­row on the con­di­tion you gave up sex – would you take the deal?

(Roars laugh­ing) My wife wouldn’t let me take it. She con­trols most of what goes on.

Do you hon­estly see your­self one day as be­ing Taoiseach?

One day soon. Ab­so­lutely. I mean, peo­ple told me I was mad when I said I wanted to run for the Seanad – and they were right about that. And then they said, ‘Oh, you’re crazy run­ning for the pres­i­dency’.

Did your fam­ily think so too?

My fam­ily were more con­cerned about me stand­ing more for health rea­sons than any­thing else be­cause I hadn’t been well. I’d been in in­ten­sive care for eight days, eight weeks ago (from an E.coli in­fec­tion – JOT). And they didn’t want me to stand. My wife, of course, was sup­port­ive, but my broth­ers and sis­ters didn’t want me to stand. They said, ‘You’re crazy. Do it next time’. I said, ‘Nay. Next time I’ll be 68’ (laughs).

But will you run again for the pres­i­dency again?

It’s very hard to run for the pres­i­dent when you’re the Taoiseach! Maybe one day.

Did you hon­estly think you could beat Michael D.?

At one stage, gen­uinely, I thought there was a chance. If he had polled around 45 per­cent and Sinn Féin had done the nor­mal 15/16 per­cent, I think that I would’ve done very well out of the trans­fers. I know I’m the world’s big­gest op­ti­mist, (laughs), but I re­ally thought there was a chance.

Are you go­ing to fo­cus all your en­ergy and time now on pol­i­tics?

Yeah. I will stand in Done­gal and I will def­i­nitely win a seat. If Fianna

“I’m to­tally in favour of mar­riage equal­ity. It’s ap­pro­pri­ate that we recog­nise that lov­ing cou­ples can be male or fe­male.”

Fáil don’t want me (laughs) that’s not go­ing to keep me awake at night. I will stand un­der the ban­ner of the New Fianna Fáil. They need to change – un­less they want to go the same way as the PDs and the same way as the Labour Party. I be­lieve it is to­tally pos­si­ble for Fianna Fáil to re­store them­selves. They paid a very stiff price. Were they alone to blame for the fi­nan­cial melt­down and fi­nan­cial cri­sis? There was more than one dancer on the dance floor. Yeah, they were largely to blame. But they’ve served their pun­ish­ment. They should be restored to the party that they once were.

Would you con­sider any other po­lit­i­cal party?

Just Fianna Fáil. It will be Fianna Fáil – but it will be a Fianna Fáil that is ac­cept­able. If they de­cide in their wis­dom that they don’t want me, I’ll start a ‘New Fianna Fáil’, a new party. But it will be ba­si­cally the same as Fianna Fáil. I’m def­i­nitely stand­ing in Done­gal and I’m go­ing to win such a large ma­jor­ity – and then I’ll think you’ll find they’ll in­vite me to join (laughs). The only con­di­tion that I’m go­ing to place on it is that I have to be the leader!

That might be dif­fi­cult.

No – he’s go­ing to get fired. The ques­tion is: do they fire him be­fore or af­ter the elec­tion? They’re go­ing to lose by a mas­sive amount if they don’t fire him be­fore. I’ll only join on con­di­tion that I get the lead­er­ship role. I’m more qual­i­fied to be Taoiseach than he is. I’d be a much bet­ter vote-get­ter than he would.

You’d be will­ing to cough up a lot of money to start a new po­lit­i­cal party?

Yes. There’s a lot of peo­ple that are dis­en­chanted – their heart and soul is Fianna Fáil, but they’re very dis­ap­pointed with the way it drifted into the wilder­ness. I don’t think you need to start a new party – I es­sen­tially agree with a lot of the plat­forms that would be Fianna Fáil plat­forms.

But it sounds like Fianna Fail don’t want you.

(Laughs) Yeah, a cou­ple at the top don’t – that’s for sure. I want them out!

Fianna Fáil has al­ready se­lected their two can­di­dates for the Done­gal con­stituency. I doubt they’d want a third can­di­date on the ticket there.

There’ll be a new leader in the party be­fore the elec­tion comes along. They’re ob­vi­ously wouldn’t be a third seat. I’ll get elected. Char­lie McCon­a­logue will get elected as he’s a good hard-work­ing man. Joe McHugh will get elected. Pearse Do­herty will get elected. Pat The Cope might get elected – it’ll be a toss up be­tween him or Thomas Pringle. One of those two will lose their seat. Thomas is a nice guy. There you go: if you want to go and take a bet to­mor­row, there’s your five that will get elected. Pat’s a nice guy, but he’s 70 and he’s got lots of pen­sions to rely on, so he’ll be fine. I think the days of be­ing elected de­pend­ing on the num­ber of fu­ner­als you at­tend is gone. We’re past that now. I won’t be at­tend­ing fu­ner­als just to get elected.

You hon­estly think Micheál Martin will be gone soon?

Oh, yeah. Micheál will be the first leader of Fianna Fáil not to be­come Taoiseach. He should’ve taken the two-year/two-year deal that was of­fered by Enda Kenny. This sup­ply and con­fi­dence no­tion – all it does is sup­ply Fine Gael with con­fi­dence (laughs).

You said Micheál Martin is too nice to take on Leo. Do you mean too weak?

I think Micheál Martin is a very good and de­cent per­son. I just think Leo is a shark and Michael’s a dol­phin. Some­times dol­phins can take on sharks – but, gen­er­ally speak­ing, they lose out on that one.

What do you think of gen­der quo­tas in the Dáil?

I think it’s wrong to have gen­der quo­tas be­cause there are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties for strong, tal­ented women. There’s so many tal­ented women there that are get­ting in, which is a great thing. I don’t know if you nec­es­sar­ily have to im­pose quo­tas. You just have to en­cour­age them to jump in.

What do you think of Don­ald Trump?

I try not to. I think he’s an in­ter­na­tional em­bar­rass­ment. As a fa­ther of three daugh­ters, I find his whole at­ti­tude to­wards women to­tally of­fen­sive.

The ‘rape cul­ture’ – with #MeToo and Time’s Up – has been one of the big is­sues of the past two years. What’s your view of that?

Look, I’ve got three daugh­ters. I con­demn all forms of abuse, or in­equal­ity. It’s wrong. It has to be stopped. A lot of women now have the courage to come for­ward, which is great. There’s not much more to say about it. There’s no right way to do the wrong thing. I think Ire­land is so ad­vanced now that we’re in a po­si­tion where peo­ple that are be­ing ma­ligned or abused are com­fort­able to come for­ward.

The fa­mous young Ir­ish ac­tor Robert Shee­han re­cently told me he’d work with Woody Allen. If you were in the movie busi­ness would you fi­nance one of his films?

One of the prob­lems some­times is that peo­ple just make these ac­cu­sa­tions. The Taoiseach of our coun­try, who knows that there isn’t a racist bone in my body, made these li­bel­lous, slan­der­ous ac­cu­sa­tions about me and called me a racist. I think it was the first time in pres­i­den­tial his­tory of a cam­paign where a Taoiseach ac­tu­ally got in­volved per­son­ally in the cam­paign to cam­paign against the can­di­date. To cam­paign specif­i­cally against the can­di­date that he knew was not a racist.

What do you mean he ‘knows’?

He knows that I’ve got a re­ally spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with In­dia and I’m so pas­sion­ate about In­dia. And he li­belled me. And I can do noth­ing about it. And he won’t apol­o­gise. And he’s still out there say­ing slan­der­ous things about me. I think Leo Varad­kar is a thun­der­ous dis­grace be­cause he hasn’t got the courage to even stand up and say, ‘Ok, I was wrong about Peter Casey. He’s not a racist’.

Are you con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion?

I’m look­ing into it. I think what he said was so wrong. And that’s the trou­ble, peo­ple can say things. In the words of our Pres­i­dent, ‘Words hurt. Words mat­ter’. Words do hurt, words do mat­ter. And Leo should lis­ten to the words of the Pres­i­dent. He should apol­o­gise. He’s abus­ing his po­si­tion. He should not have got in­volved in try­ing to af­fect the Pres­i­den­tial race. That is wrong. It’s not un­con­sti­tu­tional, but it breaks the spirit of the con­sti­tu­tion – where the of­fice of the Pres­i­dent and the of­fice of the Taoiseach are sup­posed to be in­de­pen­dent func­tion­ing bod­ies that op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently.

It’s easy to deny be­ing a racist…

If I was a racist, I would not have a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with the In­dian com­mu­nity. If I was a racist I wouldn’t have lived with a coloured guy for three years in Birm­ing­ham. If I was a racist I wouldn’t have my daugh­ters and their black/coloured friends home, and stay­ing overnight in our home. If I was racist I wouldn’t be writ­ing books about what an amaz­ing coun­try In­dia is. And he knows all this. I’ve sent him a copy of the book.

Are you plan­ning to go to court?

Ab­so­lutely. I need to find out legally if I’ve got legs to stand on first. I’m tak­ing ad­vice on whether there’s grounds for li­bel.

Who ad­vised you that the trav­eller but­ton was the one to push in the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion?

That was a to­tal and ab­so­lute ac­ci­dent. And if I could undo it I would. That is not what I’m about. What in­spired me was the Chuck Feeneys of this world – the peo­ple that can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.

Do you ac­cept that what you said about trav­ellers was of­fen­sive, or do you think they over­re­acted?

They over­re­acted. I was mak­ing an ob­ser­va­tion that there were six beau­ti­ful houses empty. The night be­fore, my­self and my wife had walked around St. Stephens Green and there was over a dozen peo­ple sleep­ing in door­ways as we walked around. I blew a fuse. This is so

wrong. It wouldn’t have mat­tered to me if the peo­ple from the halt­ing com­mu­nity across the road, if they’d been from Poland or any­where. I was just say­ing the con­cept of it was so wrong.

But trav­ellers found it of­fen­sive.

I cer­tainly didn’t mean it to be of­fen­sive. I don’t be­lieve our trav­ellers are any dif­fer­ent to you or me. I think they’re Ir­ish. They should be proud Ir­ish peo­ple. I think they should sell their horses and put their chil­dren through ed­u­ca­tion. My mother Patsy taught trav­ellers at Nazareth House and she treated ev­ery child equally. Well, no – she was harder on me as I was in her class!

Why are you so in­sis­tent that trav­ellers aren’t a sep­a­rate eth­nic group? All the ex­perts say they are, but yet you dis­agree…

The ex­perts have their heads up their ass. The bot­tom line is: they’re Ir­ish. They are as Ir­ish as you are and as Ir­ish as I am. They should be proud of that.

So you gen­uinely don’t be­lieve there are any dif­fer­ences?

They are not dif­fer­ent. The peo­ple that came here from Africa, that came here from In­dian or Pak­istan, China – they’re dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups and they do not want to be la­belled dif­fer­ent. It would of­fend them. They have made Ire­land their home. That’s why it’s so ridicu­lous to call me a racist be­cause I don’t see them as a dif­fer­ent race. They’re the same as you and me. They’re as Ir­ish as my chil­dren are.

But Ir­ish trav­ellers are recog­nised un­der Ir­ish law as an eth­nic mi­nor­ity.

That’s an ex­am­ple, by the way, of how pa­thetic gov­ern­ments pass pa­thetic laws. Strong gov­ern­ments don’t pass pa­thetic laws. That was a law that pan­der­ing to spe­cial in­ter­est mi­nor­ity groups. I have ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion grow­ing up in Derry as a Catholic. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the ugly side of racism in Amer­ica and in Aus­tralia with the dis­grace­ful way the abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion was treated. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it in Amer­ica with the dis­grace­ful way that the African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion is treated. I’m to­tally op­posed to dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of race, gen­der, sex­u­al­ity, colour – any­thing. I think by pan­der­ing to a race that’s try­ing to have a ti­tle, as it were, that doesn’t ex­ist – you’re en­cour­ag­ing some­thing that will con­tinue a cy­cle that hurts the com­mu­nity that you are ac­tu­ally try­ing to help.

So, what’s your so­lu­tion?

You have to break the cy­cle and the only way to do it is through ed­u­ca­tion. We need to come up with a way where the trav­el­ling com­mu­nity ed­u­cate their chil­dren and en­sure that their chil­dren stay in ed­u­ca­tion. And that’s the so­lu­tion. A pos­si­ble so­lu­tion is to make nice ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able for them in the Phoenix Park for a five-year pe­riod, and have a school they have to go to, and they have to fin­ish school. You have to read and write. And if you’re leav­ing school at an aver­age age of 12, there’s no way that you can get ahead in life. I’m sorry, but some­body has to point that out.

Do you know any trav­ellers per­son­ally?

Of course not. I mean, how would I? I went down and tried to meet them and they wouldn’t meet me. Hon­est to God, I’d re­ally like to move off the trav­ellers be­cause I’ve got much more in­ter­est­ing things to talk to you about. As has been pointed out, you’re talk­ing about 0.6 of a per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Was there a big trav­eller com­mu­nity in Derry when you were grow­ing up?

When I left Ire­land there was only one trav­el­ling com­mu­nity in Derry. And there was ab­so­lutely no prob­lem what­so­ever with the trav­ellers. The rea­son for that was the Pro­vi­sional IRA – they con­trolled the jus­tice sys­tem in Derry. And there was very lit­tle mis­be­haviour from any­body when the Pro­vi­sional IRA was run­ning Derry with an iron fist. But there was neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment to­wards the trav­ellers in Derry when I was grow­ing up.

If one your chil­dren came home and said, ‘Dad, I fell in love with a trav­eller and I want to get mar­ried’ – would you have any ob­jec­tions to that?

Of course not! I will have ab­so­lutely no say in who my chil­dren fall in love with and they marry. I will give my chil­dren the love and sup­port – and if they fall in love with a trav­eller and they’re happy and the trav­eller they fall in love with, whether it be a man or a woman, treats them with love and re­spect then I’d have ab­so­lutely no prob­lem what­so­ever. I’ve told all my daugh­ters that there is one golden rule in a re­la­tion­ship with a man and that is the minute the man – a boyfriend or a hus­band – if ever he phys­i­cally strikes you, get out of the re­la­tion­ship im­me­di­ately. Don’t give a sec­ond chance.

You’ve been mar­ried twice your­self.

I’ve only ever had two long-term re­la­tion­ships. One was with my first wife and then my sec­ond wife. A di­vorce is tragic when it hap­pens.

It’s ob­vi­ously very sad. I was in a re­la­tion­ship for about 15 years and we were mar­ried for about seven of them. How old was I when I got di­vorced? 34. It was in Aus­tralia. We had no chil­dren. We’d been on the IVF pro­gramme for many years and we, un­for­tu­nately, lost a baby. We were just emo­tion­ally tired and worn out. I’d just lost my fa­ther. It was a very, very dark pe­riod in my life. She said one day, ‘All you want to do is make money and have chil­dren – and I can’t help you with ei­ther. I want some­body who loves me for my­self’.

Are you still on speak­ing terms?

We’re still great friends. She’s very hap­pily re­mar­ried to a great per­son. They used to go over and stay with my mom. And my mom would go over and stay with them. She’s an amaz­ing woman. And her hus­band’s an amaz­ing man. So, we get on re­ally well.

Is it one of your big re­grets in life?

No. It was a sad time, it wasn’t a re­gret. You don’t re­gret things that the uni­verse gives you. Yes, I should have spent more time work­ing on and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties that she was go­ing through – los­ing the baby and the trauma of IVF. I was ob­sessed with work and I should’ve been more thought­ful. But that’s life. I was very, very selfish in those days. I’m still selfish but not quite as bad.

How old was the baby?

The baby only lived for a cou­ple of min­utes.

I’m sure you must’ve suf­fered with de­pres­sion af­ter­wards?

Yeah, I did. It was a very dark time. I’d say, prob­a­bly for six months or so, I felt very sorry for my­self. You pick your­self up and get on.

Did you go to ther­apy to help deal with it?

No. There was one called wine, which was very good.

So, did the mar­riage break up within a year of that tragedy?

I can’t re­mem­ber the ex­act tim­ing of it all, but, yeah, it was prob­a­bly

“I cer­tainly didn’t mean it to be of­fen­sive. I don’t be­lieve our trav­ellers are any dif­fer­ent to you or me. I think they’re Ir­ish. They should be proud Ir­ish peo­ple.”

about a year. I’d just sold the busi­ness and we de­cided to set­tle up. I was just sad. It was a very sad pe­riod in my life. The only thing that made it a lit­tle bit eas­ier, or sim­pler, was that she met some­one fairly quickly. I met some­one; it didn’t take too long. She was a very at­trac­tive lady and she met some­body. And then I met He­len.

How many chil­dren do you have?

Five won­der­ful chil­dren. God has a strange sense of hu­mour. You spend all your time on fo­cus­ing on try­ing to have chil­dren and can’t have them. I met He­len and vir­tu­ally ev­ery time I looked at her she got preg­nant.

Where did you meet He­len?

In Aus­tralia. My two boys were born in Syd­ney. Then three Ge­or­gia peaches: my three daugh­ters were all born in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia. They’ve got strong South­ern drawls.

Do you think Ire­land should re­main neu­tral?

That’s a myth. Ire­land is not neu­tral. We are mil­i­tar­ily non-aligned. It’s a load of non­sense when peo­ple talk about neu­tral­ity. Who’s go­ing to in­vade us? There’s three mil­i­tary su­per­pow­ers in the world. There is Amer­ica/NATO. Then there’s China and there’s Rus­sia. And that’s it. We should pay our two per­cent into NATO. Greece pays it, we should pay it.

What are your thoughts on Brexit?

28.1 per­cent of our ex­ports go to Amer­ica. About 11.8 per­cent of our ex­ports go to the UK. So, those two to­gether make up just about 40 per­cent of our to­tal ex­ports. If you take the UK out of the Eu­ro­pean Union, less than 33 per­cent of our to­tal ex­ports go to the EU. So, we need to wake up to that re­al­ity. The sec­ond re­al­ity is we need to wake up to is that there will never, ever again be a bor­der be­tween North and South. It’s to­tally disin­gen­u­ous of Leo Varad­kar to try and pre­tend and frighten peo­ple into think­ing that, ‘Oh, we’re go­ing to come up with a so­lu­tion so we can avoid a hard boarder’. Ab­so­lute bull. There will never be a hard bor­der. There’s as much chance of a hard bor­der as there is Trump build­ing his stupid wall.

What makes you so con­fi­dent?

They couldn’t en­force the bor­der when there were 50,000 Bri­tish troops, the SAS, the RUC, the B-Spe­cials, the Ir­ish army and the Garda Síochána. They couldn’t en­force a bor­der then. They should stop the non­sense of talk­ing about it.

How do you see them solv­ing it?

There’s no way that they can phys­i­cally get what they want in terms of a bor­der be­tween now and in six months’ time when they’re sup­posed to be out of there (the EU). So, they’ll kick the can down the road. They’ll pass some sort of leg­is­la­tion to give it an­other two to three years. And then they’ll prob­a­bly kick the can down the road again be­cause they’re fright­ened that if Bri­tain did go and have an­other ref­er­en­dum, they’re not con­vinced that Bri­tain would vote to leave – they may or they may stay in (laughs).

So why not hold a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum?

I did pol­i­tics and phi­los­o­phy at univer­sity. Philo­soph­i­cally, I’d be op­posed to an­other ref­er­en­dum be­cause the peo­ple spoke. The peo­ple made their feel­ings felt. They didn’t vote on eco­nomics. It was more to re­store a lit­tle bit of Bri­tish pride. Peo­ple were aware of the fact of the non­sense of (the Brus­sels gravy train) – ev­ery three months they (EU MEPs and bu­reau­crats) moved to dif­fer­ent five-star ho­tels in dif­fer­ent cities. It’s just lu­di­crous.

What’s the so­lu­tion for Ire­land?

The an­swer to Brexit is that we have to do ex­actly what Bri­tain does. Bri­tain is one of the largest economies in the world and they are very, very pow­er­ful econ­omy. We have demon­strated that we can’t ne­go­ti­ate with the EU. We paid 100 cent on the euro on the bond­hold­ers. Only an ab­so­lute id­iot would do that. But we can ne­go­ti­ate with Great Bri­tain be­cause we’ve got so many Ir­ish peo­ple liv­ing in Bri­tain. There’s about 670,000 peo­ple, who were born in Ire­land, liv­ing in the UK. What we should do is just ne­go­ti­ate what­ever deal Bri­tain gets Ire­lands gets ex­actly the same deal – and that would elim­i­nate the need for any bor­der what­so­ever. It’s in­cred­i­bly sim­ple.

But we don’t know yet what the deal is go­ing to be!

It will be a good deal.

Do you think we should have a ref­er­en­dum to leave the EU?

I think we should do ex­actly as Bri­tain does. And if that means we have to have a ref­er­en­dum then have a ref­er­en­dum. But what­ever deal Bri­tain gets, that’s the deal we want AND MUST GET!

Would you like to see Ire­land leave the EU?

I would like to see Ire­land get the same deal that Bri­tain gets be­cause it will be a lot bet­ter than the deal we cur­rently have.

You’re ef­fec­tively say­ing, ‘If that meant leav­ing the EU – so be it!’

If it meant leav­ing the EU, so be it. But we re­ally must get ex­actly the same deal that Bri­tain gets, be­cause it will be heck of a lot bet­ter than the deal we cur­rently have.

But do you not be­lieve it’s more ben­e­fi­cial to be in­side the EU rather than leav­ing it?

Re­ally ir­rel­e­vant as long as we get the same deal the UK gets!

Why should we leave? The EU is a far big­ger mar­ket.

You’re wrong. It’s not a big­ger mar­ket. Our big­gest trad­ing part­ner is the United States by far. I think about 28.4 per cent of our ex­ports go to Amer­ica. And then it’s about 11.7 per­cent goes to the UK. So, if you had the US and UK to­gether there’s around about 40 per­cent.

Are you go­ing to try to con­vince us that US multi­na­tion­als don’t care about be­ing in the EU – that they are based in Ire­land be­cause they love the weather? Isn’t that just like Boris John­son & co say­ing that the Ger­man car man­u­fac­tur­ers would tell the EU to do a deal that suits them be­cause they sell a lot of cars in the UK...

No. Ab­so­lutely no. You’ve lost the plot here, Ja­son. No. They want to have ac­cess to the EU. Bri­tain has got a mas­sive, mas­sive trade deficit with Ger­many. It’s the big­gest trade deficit of any coun­try in the EU. I think it’s about 16 per­cent is the im­bal­ance of trade be­tween the UK and Ger­many. In 2017, it was about €58 bil­lion was the im­bal­ance. There is no way that Ger­many will do any­thing that will say good­bye to that huge trade im­bal­ance. We need to ne­go­ti­ate ex­actly the same deal that Bri­tain gets with the EU. What­ever the deal is, that’s the deal.

Do you not agree that un­der­ly­ing the

Brits’ de­ci­sion to leave was and is a form of xeno­pho­bia, or racism? They want to ‘take con­trol back’ – which is code for keep­ing for­eign­ers out?

No, there was an el­e­ment of that and the ter­ror­ist at­tacks did not help. They were tired of be­ing bossed around by Ger­many.

Do you want to keep the for­eign­ers out of here too?

I ab­so­lutely sup­port a mul­ti­cul­tural Ire­land as long as ev­ery­one is pre­pared to con­trib­ute and comes here legally. We have been the re­cip­i­ents of so much gen­eros­ity over the years that I think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that we re­turn the grat­i­tude that we were given. But peo­ple shouldn’t come here to try and change us, they should ac­cept the won­der­ful cul­ture that we have.

What do you think of Ar­lene Fos­ter?

I think she hasn’t served her party well. It’s a dis­grace the way she has al­lowed the sit­u­a­tion to de­velop in North­ern Ire­land. The MLAs should not get paid when they’re not in govern­ment. They’d get back to work a lot quicker if they were not get­ting paid. I think there’s also se­ri­ous ques­tions she has to an­swer about the Re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive Scheme.

I heard you’re plan­ning to erect a tri­colour out­side your home in Done­gal…

The wa­ter out­side the house is claimed by the Bri­tish Crown! I’ve put out my lob­ster pot (there). When I get my lob­sters they’re ac­tu­ally Bri­tish lob­sters (laughs). We’ve put up a big 60-foot flag­pole. We haven’t put the flag yet be­cause it only got put up last Thurs­day. But it’s a 60-foot flag­pole with a big 8ft by 4ft Ir­ish tri­colour. We’re go­ing to re­claim that from the Bri­tish for Ire­land (laughs)!

What are your thoughts on euthana­sia?

Oh, there’s some peo­ple I’d like to en­cour­age to use it very quickly (laughs)! On a se­ri­ous note, it’s a very per­sonal de­ci­sion. I think it should be avail­able if you know the end is com­ing, and it’s mat­ter of months, and you want to die with dig­nity. I watched my fa­ther go­ing through a very long and painful pe­riod. And to­wards the end, I was say­ing, ‘Please take him, God’. It’s cer­tainly a dis­cus­sion that we need to have. My per­sonal choice would be that I would want to be given the choice to de­cide whether I can end it a lit­tle bit ear­lier than go through un­nec­es­sary pain and suf­fer­ing. I’ve prob­a­bly lost any chance of get­ting elected now!

“There will never be a hard bor­der. There’s as much chance of a hard bor­der as there is Trump build­ing his stupid wall.”

Here’s look­ing at you: Peter Casey at home

This is the sea: Peter Casey and his wife He­len at home in Done­gal

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