Monday, January 26, 2009

Immigrants join in the political jousting

Main parties field migrant candidates;

With June’s local elections drawing closer, political parties are showing more interest than ever in harnessing immigrants’ potential, as both candidates and voters. Between them, four parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens – have already selected 16 immigrants to stand, while, less conspicuously, the battle for a share of foreign nationals’ votes is being fought with the aid of Polish websites, multilingual leaflets and full-time migrant organisers.

Whatever higher motives the parties may claim, the numbers show that being alive to the immigrant vote also makes strategic sense.

The flow of new arrivals may have slowed, but there remain hundreds of thousands of settled immigrants with a right to vote in local polls.

Some of the liveliest contests will be fought in areas with large concentrations of newcomers.

In Mulhuddart in north Dublin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have each selected a Nigerian candidate in a constituency where another compatriot of theirs intends to stand as an Independent.

Adeola Ogunsina, a petrol station manager in Mulhuddart who joined Fine Gael four years ago, says he was drawn to the party’s support of enterprise and small businesses. And like many other immigrant candidates, he got involved through contact with other members, in his case the local TD Leo Varadkar.

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