First black mayor champions ethnic political blend

More TDs and local councillors are needed to represent ethnic minorities living in the country, the state’s first black mayor said today.

Mayor of Portlaoise, Rotimi Adebari and his wife Ronke were today welcomed to Leinster House by Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue.

Mr Adebari came to Ireland from Nigeria seven years ago. He was first elected to Portlaoise Town Council in 2004 and became mayor a week ago.

He said today: “Ireland now has over 200 different nationalities living here. TDs don’t have to be black but I would be delighted to see minority ethnic groups represented in the Dail and in local authorities.”

The father-of-four, who is chairing his first meeting of the town council on Tuesday, also said he hopes to make Portlaoise the ’conference capital’ of Ireland.

Ceann Comhairle, Mr O’Donoghue said the election of Mr Adebari as mayor of Portlaoise was “a significant moment in Ireland’s recent development”.

He encouraged people from other countries to get involved in their communities and aspire towards public office.

“I believe it is very important that ethnic minorities are recognised and valued for what they contribute to our society. It is also important that their views and opinions are aired and their needs addressed. As foreign nationals get more involved, at whatever level, in the political process the stronger their voice becomes,” he said.

He added: “In two years time local elections will be held, and I hope that we’ll see greater cultural diversity reflected and represented on our local councils.”

“It enriches our society to have the diversity we now see in Ireland. The involvement of those who have come here from other countries in our political system will enrich our democracy. I am sure it is only a matter of time before we see some ’new Irish’ elected to the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

Mr Adebari said he has given 68 media interviews to promote the town since he was elected mayor on June 29.

Speaking about making Portlaoise the ’conference capital’ of Ireland he explained: “We are very close to Dublin and we have three big hotels. The location is fantastic. I’m calling on all organisations out there to bring their conferences to Portlaoise,” he said.

He also vowed to continue to promote cross-culturalism in the Midlands.

Mr Adebari set up a support group for unemployed people when he first moved to Portlaoise.

He later established a consultancy that trains firms and community groups in cross-cultural awareness.

He also works on projects integrating immigrants into Irish communities. He has a Masters in Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University.

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