Migrants who graduate from leadership course encouraged to stand for local elections

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More members of the Irish migrant community should feel supported and empowered to stand in local elections so that Irish politics properly reflects the diversity of this society, said the Minister of State for Community Development.

Speaking to graduates of the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s (ICI) political leadership programme, Joe O’Brien highlighted the low number of advisers with an immigrant background, despite the growing diversity in the country.

Some 12 of the 949 councilors elected in 2019 are of immigrant background, representing just over 1% of all councillors, he said.

“We really should be looking at at least 100 if that is to be in any way representative or proportionate of our society as a whole,” the minister told attendees at Saturday’s graduation ceremony at the Epic museum in Dublin. .

He encouraged the 26 graduates of the council program to seriously consider running in the 2024 local elections because “whatever your outcome, just showing up and standing up will show leadership and examples to others and young people.” of your communities”.

Beryl Ohas, Aaron Koay and Bomi So at the graduation ceremony. Photography: Marc O’Sullivan

“We just don’t have enough diverse faces on the posters that go up the poles every four or five years.”

ICI’s integration manager, Teresa Buczkowska, noted that Fianna Fáil councilor Uruemu Adejinmi, who was elected mayor of Longford last year, graduated from the migrant councilor program in 2018. Graduates of the 2020 program launched the “We’re Here Too” campaign to improve supports for migrant women experiencing domestic violence, she added.

“Ireland is an increasingly diverse society, with one in eight of us having an immigrant background,” Ms Buczkowska said. “The reality, however, is that we migrants do not see ourselves represented in many key sectors of Irish society, including the social justice sector. Migrants should be included in conversations about the issues that matter to us, from housing, education and discrimination to immigration policy reform and more.

“The representation and participation of migrant communities strengthens our democracy. Ireland is our home and we should be actively involved in making decisions about the future. We already have an incredible pool of talented and inspiring vital leaders, we just need to find them and we need to give them access to platforms.

To make alliances, you have to go out there and give people chances and you have to listen. And this is how we build

Beryl Ohas, an LGBTQI activist from Kenya who graduated from the Migrant Leadership Academy, said that before participating she didn’t think she had “a chance to speak out” or “for people to see who we really are”.

“To succeed, you have to make alliances as I learned during the program. And to make alliances, you have to go out there and give people chances and you have to listen. And that’s how we build.

Lola Gonzalez, who is originally from Panama and grew up in the United States, said she became interested in Irish politics after the 2019 local elections. acceptance, attention and support from members of a group, as well as giving the same attention to other members.

“As migrants, we can feel a sense of nostalgia in our lifetime when we decide to leave our countries. Belonging helps us become productive members of society.

Ms Gonzalez said her three-month internship with Fianna Fáil councilor Sean McGowan had inspired her to stand for local elections in her home county of Leitrim in the future. “As Malala Yousafzai once said, ‘there is a time when you have to choose to be quiet or to stand up’.”

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