Verbal abuse victim blames Peter Casey for 'emboldening' racists

Verbal abuse victim blames Peter Casey for 'emboldening' racists
Peter Casey

A woman from the Traveller community who was verbally abused at a Dublin university has blamed presidential candidate Peter Casey for emboldening those with racist views in society.

Kathleen Lawrence, 33, was studying in a common area in University College Dublin on Monday when she overheard a fellow student use the word 'knacker'.

"When I heard him say it, it immediately shocked me, and I asked: 'What did you just say? Did you just say knacker?'," she said.

"I explained to him that he shouldn't say that word, that I was a traveller and I find it very offensive and derogatory.

"He immediately told me to 'Mind my own f***ing business' and when I said I would report him he said; 'Report me to who you f***ing want - I don't care.'

"He immediately went on the attack, he was so confident in what he was saying.

"I got up and left, and I could hear him saying that he couldn't be racist because travellers are not a race."

Knacker is viewed as a derogatory and racist term to the Traveller community.

Ms Lawrence who is completing a Masters Degree in Human Rights, says she was most disappointed in the other people in the area who did not intervene.

"Usually when you challenge people on using that word, they'll be a bit embarrassed, they'd say they weren't thinking of Traveller people when they use it or whatever, but he was so sure of himself, like he was untouchable," she said.

Businessman Peter Casey has come under increased criticism after two weeks of standing by his comments about Travellers, who he says are not an ethnic minority, don't pay their fair share in taxes and camp on other people's land.

He considered pulling out of the Presidential race last week, but says he will continue on after receiving what he said were thousands of messages of support from the public over his comments about Travellers.

Ms Lawrence said Mr Casey was setting a bad example: "The likes of Peter Casey, and politicians who are all in the public sphere who can say things about Travellers and get away with it without consequences, then the public begin to feel the exact same way."

"The fact is that those people, not only stay in their jobs, but do quite well in them, and face no consequences at all.

"I would've preferred if Casey had stood down, but when I heard people contacted him to say he was doing a good job, that he himself felt emboldened by his acts, that's more frustrating.

"He took solace from the fact that people were messaging him to praise him, that is so disheartening.

"He has no self-awareness at all, and thankfully his support remains low, which is great news for the people of Ireland, because regardless of his views on Travellers, we couldn't have a man like him as president."

Ms Lawrence reported the incident to UCD Student Union's welfare officer and says this is the first time she's experienced racism at the university, but has previously experienced during her first degree at a different institution.

UCD have been approached for comment.

PA

This copy was amended on 24 October 2018.

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