A CORK-BASED Traveller who worked part-time to fund rent while at college has hit back at comments made by presidential hopeful Peter Casey.
Annmarie Collins of the East Cork Traveller Project said she found his comments that Travellers don’t pay their fair share of taxes and that they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land” to be hurtful.
Another Traveller, TJ Hogan from Farranree, said he was infuriated by the comments, adding that he had been paying taxes since he started working at 16 years old.
Both are among the 1% of Ireland’s 40,000 Travellers who have gone on to third level education.
They spoke to the Evening Echo as Mr Casey admitted he made the comments against the wishes of his campaign team.
Mr Casey visited a site in Tipperary yesterday afternoon which has been developed for Travellers who are currently living on an unauthorised site nearby.
Annmarie, who is 28 years old and single, said she attended college for eight years, having done a PLC course and the Trinity College Access Programme before undertaking a degree in occupational therapy.
She said she worked part-time as a healthcare assistant during her college years to make money to pay her rent.
She added that her own mother was married with five children at her age but she is happy that she has decided to buck the trend in the Traveller community by pursuing an education and a career.
She said Mr Casey’s comments were ignorant and hurtful to the Traveller community.
TJ Hogan, aged 23, who is employed by the Irish Traveller Movement, said the comments “demonstrate a new low for high office”.
He said that while he accepted that there are negative elements within the Traveller community, he added that change is not possible if the settled community does not work with Travellers to address issues such as education and accommodation.
He did a degree in community development at Cork Institute of Technology and took a year out of study because his first child arrived in recent weeks.
He plans to return to education next year to do a Masters in Social Policy.
Two of Mr Hogan’s sisters are now also studying at third level, while his brother is undertaking an apprenticeship.
Two of his first cousins have also gone onto third level education.
Meanwhile, Solidarity TD Mick Barry said Peter Casey had “cynically decided to play the race card in an attempt to revive his faltering campaign as he remained stuck on 2% and at the back of the Presidential field”.
Deputy Barry added: “You won’t find many more revolting sights in politics than the sight of a wealthy, privileged man pointing the finger at an underprivileged minority for his own self-gain, in this case in order to win votes.” And he said: “I hope Mr Casey is rewarded for his comments with the wooden spoon when the people vote next week.”