Dan Boyle: Natural Selection


From top: Peter Casey at Dublin Castle last Saturday; Dan Boyle.

I wouldn’t say that the 342,727 voters who indicated support for Peter Casey in our presidential election are racists, but I suspect that many who have tendencies to be racist did vote for him.

There were many factors that contributed to a tenfold increase in his support over a period of one week.

One was the assumption, fuelled by opinion polls, that Michael D. Higgins would be easily elected. While always a dangerous assumption, this seemed to free many voters into making a statement; or statements, to give a collective two fingers to the political establishment.

The second factor is that like Dáil by-elections, in presidential elections most votes gravitate towards the successful candidate and then towards the most viable challenger.

My highest vote (16%) was achieved in a by election. I estimate I got at least half those votes by being seen as the most viable ‘protest’ candidate.

However the third factor is political serendipity – being at the right place at the right time saying a perceived ‘right’ thing.

Undoubtedly Peter Casey touched a nerve. In doing so he caused an extraordinarily large number of voters to change their opinions over a blink of an eye time span.

This is worrying that so many people could at the drop of a hat, express support for a candidate they did not know, and whose wider policy platform was so nebulously incoherent.

The most publicly expressed reason why the new found Casey supporters became attracted to him was because, as they said, he said things they often are afraid to say themselves.

While politicians are regularly castigated for resorting to cliche, this statement meant to be evocative of an electorate not being listened to, is among the worst of all political cliches.

When it is said that people are afraid to say things, it means they feel they are being deprived to say things that are wrong. Very wrong. What is being sought is the right to be intolerant.

For many in the electorate, or at least those who bothered to vote, Casey has been a mischievous cipher to somehow communicate the supposedly desirous state of being politically incorrect.

PC is not a legal code. It’s meant to be about positive ways in how we consider each other, how we speak about and refer to each other. It is open to exaggeration and thus likely ridicule, but it remains a better alternative to that of being nasty and ignorant towards each other.

I wouldn’t be of the school of thought that would want things not to be said. I think it is more rewarding when the distasteful gets said, once it is immediately reacted to and challenged.

While writing this I have been attending an event in Cork. Speaking there was a young traveller woman, an artist. She pointed out she was the only traveller in the room among a crowd of people, who after events of past weeks she would assume one in five of those sat there could not recognise her for who and what she was. Would that Peter Casey could speak with such assured eloquence.

There is a cozy comfort in how we form our opinions of others through generalisations, myths and common misconceptions. Instinct allows us to avoid needing to think or to have to inform ourselves.

This might seem a bit too PC for some. To such people I say FU. That might give some sense of how those we choose not to understand, or engage with, feel.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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81 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Natural Selection

  1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

    Before I go here I need to say that I didn’t vote for Casey and nor would I. The following quote in my opinion though is the highest form of political elitism and shows just why a Casey vote was so (worryingly) strong in the end.

    “When it is said that people are afraid to say things, it means they feel they are being deprived to say things that are wrong. Very wrong. What is being sought is the right to be intolerant”

    This is the crux of the issue. It is in fairness largely correct. The reason it exists though is because, very simply, it has always existed. What modern PC culture has done is silenced these voices. They’ve always been there. They’re highly unlikely to go away. It’s just that in years gone by they were heard. Today they feel largely disenfranchised. Why! Its far more dangerous for society -as Trump has proven – for these silent voices to gather momentum in the long grass than it is for us to have to listen to it day in day out. We actually need to give these people a platform. Make idiots of themselves for all I care. By and large the majority, upon hearing their noises, will turn their back on them. But so long as they’re hidden from those who don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean they’re gone away though. Far from it in fact. Bad things happen in dark spaces.

    1. Nigel

      These voices are not being silenced. These voices are being disagreed with and they really don’t like it. They don’t have the slightest feckin clue what it’s like to really be silenced.

      1. Cian

        There is a difference between “you can’t say that” and “you shouldn’t say that”.

        The former is being silenced, the latter is an opportunity to discuss/inform/educate.

        And I have heard a lot more of the former then the latter.

        1. Nigel

          These are just degrees of disagreement. All this handwringing is being directed at people because they disagree too strongly with poor silenced millionaire Casey.

          1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

            I’m sorry Nigel if this seems curt and slightly (actually very) patronising but I don’t think you’ve been listening.

          2. Nigel

            I’ve heard it all before. I agree these people are driven by grievance and resentment and are dangerous because they’re vulnerable to the same plutocrat-funded right-wing illiberal propaganda that drove support for Trump and Brexit. This whole election was like a controlled experiment to show that effect. They are not owed a platform that they’re somehow being denied. They have the same representation and access to media as the rest of us. People hostile to Travellers have been enacting Traveller policies for a long time. They’ve only ever made things worse. We can acknowledge the problems and the negative effects and the poverty and criminality. We don’t have to keep letting the same sorts of people exacerbate them over and over again.

          3. CoderNerd

            Genuine question Nigel, what do you mean by this line?

            “People hostile to Travellers have been enacting Traveller policies for a long time.”

          4. Nigel

            If you look into the history of how the Irish state has treated Travellers, amounting to disastrous attempts at enforced settlement, you’ll have a good idea of how we got to where are today.

          5. Nigel

            I wish I didn’t have a brain like Swiss cheese and was better at reciting facts and quoting chapter and verse, but it is worth looking into.

    1. Giggidygoo

      ‘……..but I suspect that many who have tendencies to be racist did vote for him.’

      Maybe Dan has an explanation and suspicions about who didn’t vote for the greens last general election and the one before (when no Greens were returned to the Dail).
      Or explain why the Green Party wiped its Party’s history from its website.
      I’d be more interested in that than his bandwagoning.

        1. giggidygoo

          Perhaps not on the article, but the writer of the article writing it while shying away from his own politics. Fair game.

      1. Dan Boyle

        I’ve written two books on the history of the Green Party. You are free to read either or both of them.

        1. giggidygoo

          Good man. However – why has the Greens history been removed from the website? Hardly to promote the sale of your books?

  2. Owen C

    “It’s meant to be about positive ways in how we consider each other, how we speak about and refer to each other”

    I’m sorry, this is a nonsense. And i say that as someone who is broadly PC and broadly mainstream in my political views. PC is about not wavering too much from mainstream viewpoints, to only constructively critique these viewpoints and to politely debate them. While the original intent was I’m sure to allow for constructive debate which served to allow differing viewpoints to actively engage on them in a civilised manner, we have gone so far beyond that that simple “offence” (an entirely subjective matter) is now considered beyond the Pale and we are basically moving into a censorship-led approach on many issues which are should be seen as personal opinions. Social media echo-outrage chambers amplify this effect. I am fundamentally in favour of genuine hate crime restrictions and legislation, but i am fundamentally against a PC culture which is becoming far more intolerant than the intolerance it was originally designed to counter. In Casey’s situation, what he inadvertently happened upon was a position whereby Travellers genuine ethnic status protected them from criticism of their genuine social-economic issues. It is the same contrived outrage which protects genuine criticism of Israel with blanket complaints about Antisemitism, which confuses genuine issues brought up by Brexit with a clear anti-immigrant or racist undertone to much of their talking points, and which conflates very real white nationalism traits within the Trump administration with very real issues with immigration/border control and mobile investment capital. We ended up with Trump and Brexit because we ignored and derided some genuine concerns (which were mixed in with some genuine hysteria or racism or similar). We will end up with a far right party (or perhaps two, one for social issues one for economic issues) in Ireland if we label “many” of the 23% who voted for Casey as having racist tendencies and being intolerant of the society around them. Here’s a hint: they represent a large part of the society around them. This isn’t to say “they’re right”, but to simply ask them “what’s wrong with them?” and see where that takes us.

    Peter Casey was wrong in what he said about the Travellers, but he was not wrong to try and say it.

      1. small ads

        He was wrong because he typified a whole group by holding up one member of the group for disapproving examination.

        1. Owen C

          Its not just one member. But equally its not all of them. There’s a sub set of issues around the Travelling Community, on both sides, which merit discussion. And there’s a sub set of perceived issues which do not. But a blanket pro or anti leaves us in either a total-PC or no-PC type world where everyone loses.

          1. anne

            Yeah. Well I don’t think he was “wrong”.. there are major issues & let’s be honest no one would want to live near a halting site.

    1. Friscondo

      Yeah, if only fascists in ‘30s Germany and Italy had been “listened” to, history would turned out so differently. I’m sure Stuart Lee won’t mind me stealing his line about Brexit. It wasn’t just racists who voted for Peter Casey. C**nts did too.

      1. Owen C

        And you’ve literally taken in nothing above. We should all punch Nazis and Fascists. We shouldn’t call people with simple unpleasant views Nazis and Fascists. There’s actual Nazis and Hyperbolically-described Nazis.

          1. Owen C

            Awesome. Perhaps you could give a definition of fascist which ensures that the exact correct category of person is included.

  3. dan

    There is a cozy comfort in how we form our opinions of others through generalisations, myths and common misconceptions.

    There are facts about travellers that need to be brought out into the open:
    Why are they so marganilised? Why so many in jail? Why are so many afraid of them?
    Why are so many travellers unemployed? Bigotry? Lack of education?
    Why do do many leave school at a very young age?

    Hopefully a mature discussion about what Casey said and how his vote increased coud be had but no, instead we get the usual rubbish from present and failed politicians. Speaking from personal experience all of my dealings with travellers have been negative and I like others form my opinions on people based on experiences. While I agree that a lot of travellers have a life that i wouldn’t wish for, not all of their problems are Peter Caseys or the “settled communitys” fault

      1. dan

        SO why do so many people distrust travellers?
        Why was John Connors not criticised for calling Garda scum?
        Why was the lady with 7 kids not criticised for having almost 30 criminal convictions?
        Dan, try visiting some of the terrified farmers who can;t sleep for fear of being attacked by travellers,

    1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

      It is an unfortunate realty in our society that there seems to be many negative experiences within the settled community regarding the Traveller community be they anecdotal, mythical or downright ignorance. If there is any truth to it, though, the blame for how previous governments have treated Travellers, and put them essentially in their current position of near segregation, cannot be placed at their own door. This was not of the Travelers own doing. That said any consequences to the settled community caused by the indiscretions within the Traveler community can not be laid at the feet of settled people either. Past and present governments have created a situation which is detrimental to us all. It needs to be talked about. It is real.

      1. Nigel

        It’s almost as if having a marginalised, impoverished group treated with intolerance and prejudice for generations will have incredibly negative effects on that group and on the people in wider society who have to interact with members of that group. Now if only some non-tax resident millionaire presidential candidate would take that as a starting point rather than witless twittering about vague grievances against that group for having an ethnic status, we might have an actual useful conversation.

        1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

          The significance of the human being that is Casey isn’t him being an Irish political figurehead per se, he was simply the perceived straw that broke the camels back for some in society. Casey is an almost irrelevance in the real world. It could have been him or anybody who latched on to such easy low hanging fruit should they wished to. He’d possibly/probably poll badly as a real local candidate in a general election as his quick hit tactics are eliminated by somebody else scaremongering about a local hospital closing or the next big deal on the list. Casey, who he is ,what he is, how much he has in the bank are not important in this specific discussion.

          1. Nigel

            This profoundly unimportant person has been allowed to set the terms of the debate, which is not about Travellers and their situation and how to make things better for them and the people who havev to live near them or interact with them but how we really need more people saying bad things about Travellers in public life and how people who want more bad things said about Travellers are the real marginalised and silenced people.

        2. anne

          Plenty of people have gone through some hard times & didn’t decide to rob, intimidate, and generally not give a fupp about everyone else in society .

          The victim mentality keeps people from doing anything to improve their lot in life and gives them a sense of entitlement.

          1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

            Ah but plenty of settled people still do exactly that too Anne. That line proves nothing. The real question is how did that person, settled or traveller, end up at that point in life. One must take responsibility ultimately for their own actions, its not always someone else’s fault. That said when you come from the bottom it is significantly harder to catch a break.

          2. anne

            I don’t think that’s the real question at all. You’re either a scum bag or you’re not. It doesn’t matter what you’re given.

          3. anne

            There was a video on here before of 2 scum bags robbing a bike..you had all that malarky too – “they must be disadvantaged, the poor things. The guy whose bike was robbed shouldn’t be prejudice.”

          4. Nigel

            Plenty of people have had bad experiences with Travellers and concluded that the problems run deeper than a bad reaction to some hard times giving them a so-called victim mentality and the solutions don’t involve protracted debate about why It’s unfair people can’t just say bad things about Travellers all the time.

          5. Worlds Biggest Ranter


            “You’re either a scum bag or you’re not. It doesn’t matter what you’re given”

            Such simplification is quite frankly completely without credibility. People from impoverished backgrounds are statistically more likely to be involved in criminality. While a bad apple is likely to appear at any economic level of society being poor, segregated, prejudiced against and likely to have already had first hand experience of criminality, is going to greatly increase your chances of repeating the cycle. In many ways people who don’t experience any of the above prove that point by not acting like a “scum bag” simply because that’s not what influences their life choices. Doesn’t make the sometimes poor choices of the less well off in society right but you always have to go to the source of the river to find the spring.

          6. anne

            The source of the river? That’d be choice. No one is forced to be a thieving, intimidating scumbag. Be it in a suit or a pavee tracksuit.

  4. Starina

    A) Stop giving airtime to Casey. that’s how you get ants. Do you want ants?!

    B) If you have a tendency to be racist, you’re a racist. Don’t tip-toe around these fuppers.

    1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

      A) Give Casey airtime. Then we can find out what people are thinking, deal with the realities, the myths and lies. Education of ignorance is the key. We wont know what people are thinking if we don’t hear them.

      B) Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority. They’re still Irish. Anglo Irish, Norman Irish, Scotch Irish, they’re all Irish. There’s nothing racist about pointing out specific problems within a sector of our community. What is a problem is when lies are told.

      1. Nigel

        Casey won a feck-ton of airtime just by saying stuff people supposedly aren’t allowed to say. We found out what he was thinking. It turned out to be not much. But he’s a non-tax resident millionaire who clearly has no understanding of what he’s talking about so we must let him drive the conversation, apparently, and be grateful for him.

        1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

          Yes but 23% of people who voted marked his card. Who are they! Casey, ironically, is almost irrelevant in all this .

          1. Nigel

            I expect they’re the same people with local government and national political representation who are mad because they’re a minority who can’t quite drive local and national policy to be anti-traveller enough, though God knows what that would look like.

      2. scottser

        there must be room in your solution for a good, old-fashioned ‘kick up the hole’. yes, education is important, as is transparency and consistency. but a good root up the jaxy with a hobnailer is what’s needed what common-sense is ignored wholesale. it’s the only way casey and his ilk will learn.

          1. Nigel

            And Bord Na Mona making a big deal out of shutting down peat production for fuel while still harvesting for garden compost and dog bedding and bits if Laois being sold off for pine plantations and the rape of the River Bandon and hedge cutting extended into nesting season. This government is actively anti-environment.

          2. Amorphous Kerry Blob

            Ireland failing on ‘human rights obligations’, says UN human rights expert.

            Meanwhile, on the same day:
            “the realisation of Ireland’s offshore oil & gas resource potential can deliver significant benefits to the people of Ireland..”
            Sean Casey, Minister of State at Department of Rural & Community Development and Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment.

          3. Nigel

            I’m conscious of how easy it is to to be overwhelmingly negatuve about this. The Green Party is the only political party that gives the slightest damn about the environment but I know lots of people here can’t get over their role in the bail-out. Perhaps they might consider joining the Irish Wildlife Trust. They’re dedicated but underfunded.

  5. Termagant

    You can throw around words like prejudice and generalisation but I think if you took a national survey of positive and negative experiences with travellers the numbers would speak for themselves. The enmity doesn’t come from nowhere and the cultural attitudes of the travellers that cause the behaviors that cause friction with the settled public aren’t going to change in isolation. Action needs to be taken within their community and since any efforts from the state (aside from handouts and preferential treatment) will be treated as unwanted interference they need to do at least some of it themselves.

    1. small ads

      You can throw around words like prejudice and generalisation but I think if you took a national survey of positive and negative experiences with travellers the numbers would speak for themselves.
      It’s still a prejudice and a generalisation even if many people hold an opinion. Lots of Germans were prejudiced against Jews in the 1930s; that didn’t make their prejudice right.

      1. Termagant

        My point is that prejudice is feeling a certain way towards people for no other reason than their belonging to a specific group. People up and down the country harbour ill-feeling towards travellers based on personal experience, not simply because they’re part of a separate group. It’s not prejudice, it’s an informed judgement, they have reasons to dislike travellers aside from the box they tick on the census.

        1. anne

          That’s human nature. Un/conscious bias & prejudices. Some of them are warranted. People just want to feel safe.

          The threat of violence from travellers is just how *they seem to communicate displeasure at things. It’s not conducive to having warm & fuzzy feelings about them IMO.

          * a lot of them.

          1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

            ” * a lot of them ”

            Source please?

            I’m not saying I agree or disagree. Its just that when you say something like that you need to be able to back it up. You might well be right. Its just that without backing it up it’s basically horse dung.

      2. curmudgeon

        “Prejudice” definition: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

        Rural communities are victims of traveller violence theft and intimidation, not prejudiced but angry and fearful.

        Do you think travalers are in prison because of prejudice or because of crimes committed?

  6. Ollie Cromwell

    Poor Dan.
    The bitterness at seeing a newcomer hoover up the number of votes that he could only dream of seeps through every sentence.

  7. Vanessa off the Telly

    Good talking points Dan

    However, in my view, intolerance and racism formed very little of Peter Casey’s vote.
    And I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about the call myself, I only expected him to jump to 10’ish %, and genuinely expected the women candidates to do much better.

    Politicians and political operatives, be they media correspondents or party/ campaign pros, continually underestimate the Irish voter.
    It never ceases to amaze me tbh

    I reckon the vast bulk for those 1st preferences came from Citizens who are sh1t sick of being ignored, particularly at local and grassroots level.

    And they are sh1t sick of candidates preaching and trying to plamaus them at election time, followed by excuses for themselves afterwards.
    They had the comfort of knowing Micheal D was safe no matter what so on the day they threw in with the man of the moment.

    The stuff I could tell ye that came out of some candidates traps during the Councils tour would stun ye, even to other hopefuls, and their barefaced cogging and unabashed falseness was brazen to say the least.

    In the end Peter Casey was the only one of the Independents that was authentic from the start. You don’t have to like him or his views, I certainly don’t, but he didn’t change his bend or sway to please or patronize once. Not once, and at no stage did any of his pitches or answers to Councillors suggest or hint they might regret not endorsing him.

    I suspect he’ll have no problems getting elected the next time he puts his name on a ballot sheet, any ballot sheet; from Local to Europe to Seanad.

    1. Nigel

      Peter Casey was the guy who called himself a socialist capitalist and said not a lot of people knew that when they bought a Jaguar they were making a charitable contribution. He wasn’t authentic he was threadbare, a millionaire dabbling in politics, looking for elevation. The manner of the sanctification of the fraction that voted for him is insulting to everyone else who voted in an overwhelming majority against him.

    2. Worlds Biggest Ranter

      “genuinely expected the women candidates to do much better”

      As poor and bland as the men were (and they were painfully cynical) the women candidates were truly appalling. Ni Riada stinks of a subtle antagoniser and of a tantrum thrower if she doesn’t get here way ( read bullying but it’s rarely pulled up as such if its a female) Poor old Joan Freeman just looked out of her dept. She turned up for a presidential campaign totally under prepared for what she was about to endure and a PR campaign (which the lads were essentially on to further themselves in the future) which she was equally bamboozled by. That men still dominate this things might be depressing but that this was the best the female side could muster doesn’t inspire any great hope. At best they looked like women emulating men, at worst simply poor female candidates.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        If Ni Riada and Freeman performed weakly in their campaigns, that has absolutely nothing to do with their gender! Likewise, expecting the women candidates to do better is an appalling statement. What do “men still dominate” – the presidential election? Get a grip and enter 2018.

        1. Worlds Biggest Ranter

          What do “men still dominate”

          I can explain it to you, I can understand it for you.

      2. Vanessa off the Telly

        I don’t accept that Ní Riada or Freeman presented badly at all

        In fact I fully expected them to come 2nd and 3rd to Michael D
        With Casey being top dragon

        Both Ní Riada and Freeman were far more impressive and tolerable than all the others, with the exception of Micheal D, in the debates

        I suppose Freeman never shook off the Iona Institute tag nor the walls of Knock cure-all sting
        As for Sinn Féin
        Well they made a hames of it from the start

        They should have announced their candidate by May at least. Like Labour announced Mary Robinson, who was also relatively unknown, very early in the year of her election.

        Additionally, Pearse was their Campaign Director, he already made a hames of his own Constituency Campaign in GE’16, so was, IMO, a poor choice.
        Mary Lou should have taken it on herself.

        Anyway it’s all over for another 7 years
        But I’m glad they’re finally talking about reducing the term to 5 years
        Do you think Leo was watching Broadsheet on the Telly the night I plugged that?

    3. dan

      Ruari Quinn signed a pledge not to increase college fees, adn then went ahead and inrcreased them
      PAt Rabbitte admitted to lying for votes
      Bertie took bungs
      Martin Callinan..where do you start
      Shatter got informaiton on political opponents from Gardai and is alleged to have driven away froma Garda checkpoint

      So, all this corruption going on while the ordinary people are being bled dry. Do you see the root cause now, do you?

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