A WIDER debate on roaming gangs and criminality in rural communities needs to be opened up, according to the Limerick politician who secured Peter Casey’s nomination to run in last Friday’s Presidential election.
Speaking to the Limerick Post this Wednesday, Fianna Fail councillor Michael Collins said that, looking back on the process, Mr Casey’s nomination and council support came “at a point in the process” and that was after a ten-minute presentation.
“Not all the issues were covered on the day and councillors didn’t have time to ask about Mr Casey’s views on the topics he raised during his campaign.
However, the Newcastle West councillor, who is also Deputy Mayor of Limerick, said that Mr Casey’s comments had highlighted the need for a broader debate on some important issues.
“There is a huge debate that needs to be opened up about the issue of criminality in rural communities. Roaming gangs, be they from Traveller or settled communities, are not being targeted because “there are elements operating above the law.”
Councillor Collins says that he represents all members of the community in his constituency and is not highlighting anyone in particular, but is referring to the “greater issue”.
“It is high time that the Criminal Assets Bureau stopped operating just out of Dublin and set up regional bases so they can target criminal elements in major towns around the country.
“People are sick of seeing elements going around seemingly operating above the law. CAB needs to target the proceeds of crime and in turn that would help tackle the growing drug issues in our communities.”
Reacting to Mr Casey’s comments about joining and one day leading Fianna Fail and the country, Councillor Collins said that he believes the Presidential election runner-up is “playing games”.
“But he can go online and pay his dues and join the party that way like anyone else. The national reaction might have been a bit hasty, so this needs to play out in time”, Cllr Collins said.
However, Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said that Mr Casey’s claims that he was going to join the party as an election candidate, top the poll and become Taoiseach because the Fianna Fail party has “lost touch”, were not consistent.
“Mr Casey proposed a lot of things including that he hadn’t fully decided on his political future or running for president again.
“But there’s bad news for Peter Casey in the sense that our ticket in Donegal is complete. We have Charlie McConalogue and Pat the Cope Gallagher, our two sitting candidates. Peter would want to realise that you can’t just rock up to political parties and think you can get your way.”
However, with public interest heightened due to the media coverage driven by Mr Casey’s comments, Deputy Collins said that he “sparked debate on a number of levels”.
“Within the Travelling community, there needs to be an examination of how they are perceived by some in the settled community.
“There are very decent people in the Travelling community but a lot of people have had a bad experience with Travellers, and that needs to be discussed.”
Mr Casey’s reaction to Deputy Collins’ comments centred around the 342,000 voters who said “we support Peter” adding that he would be happy to sit down and talk with Deputy Collins because “he obviously doesn’t know me, I’d be delighted to talk to him.
If Fianna Fail say they are full, “the party’s full, full of nonsense. If they don’t really have room, then they have a problem”, Mr Casey said following his surprise bounce in the poll on election day.
Fianna Fail party colleague and former General Election poll topper in Limerick, Willie O’Dea echoed Deputy Collins’ sentiments.
“I don’t share Mr Casey’s politics and I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing a platform with him. I refer to his statement that he was going to join the party in Donegal and be selected as candidate and top the poll, you don’t just join a party like Fianna Fail and demand that you get selected and demand that you top the poll.
“It’s not as quite as simple as that. So it does seem to betray a bewildering ignorance of the democratic process in the country at the very least.
Mr Casey’s comments about people unlucky enough to have to depend on welfare made it unlikely he would be fit to be a party member, Deputy O’Dea said adding that Mr Casey showed “unbridled arrogance” claiming he would top the poll.
In rural Limerick, Mr Casey, the former Dragon’s Den star, secured 34.2 per cent or 10,865 votes of the vote with 23.9 per cent of Limerick city voters supporting the Donegal man.
Mr Casey said that he was 100 per cent serious about his political desires and “if the consensus after talking to Fianna Fail was that they didn’t want him, “I’ll form a new party and I’ll call it the new Fianna Fáil.”
Meantime, the Fianna Fáil party has said that they will be “election-ready” after party finances were revealed to be the best in almost three decades.
Latest accounts indicate that debts have been cleared and the finances could receive a €500,000 boost if its superdraw replicates last year’s success.
Deputy Collins, who is one of Fianna Fail’s honorary treasurers said: “Financially the organisation is now in one of its most encouraging positions in more than 30 years, leaving us well-positioned for the challenges emanating from the upcoming electoral cycle”