Dan Boyle: Tribal Politics


From top: A march in Dublin to promote the recognition of Travellers as a minority ethnic group, September, 2009; Dan Boyle

I attended an interesting meeting last Saturday. Organised by the Cork Migrant Centre along with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Cork City Council, it was an event to encourage migrant participation in political life in Ireland.

We have had about twenty five years of inwards migration into the country. While it is difficult to disentangle clear statistics given our own history of migration out of, and back into the auld sod, it seems that one in every eight people come from non traditional ethnic backgrounds.

Quarter of a century on there is little sign that our new communities are being reflected in our political systems.

There has been the occasional interloper, viewed as curious oddities, stop starters in developing a political system that remains far from reflective.

The Spring Tide election in 1992 saw the surprising election of Dr. Moosajee Bhamjee in Clare. A South African of an Indian ethnic background.

He achieved high visibility during his term as a TD, but chose not to seek re-election, perhaps realising earlier than most that spring tides go out as well as come in.

Local government has had a far poorer return from new Irish communities. In 2004 two Nigerians were elected as independents to town councils in Portlaoise and in Ennis.

The first of these was Rotimi Adebari who became Mayor of the Town Council in 2007. He was elected for a second term as councillor in 2009, before Portlaoise Town Council, along with town councils throughout the country, was stupidly abolished.

In the 2009 elections, The Greens ran Tendai Madondo from Zimbabwe in Tallaght South. She won over six hundred votes but did not win a seat. Another Green candidate, Kristina Jankaitiene from Lithuania, was elected to Carrickmacross Town Council.

In 2014 only two candidates from New Irish backgrounds were elected as city/county councillors.

On Fingal County Council a Sinn Féin candidate, Edmond Lukusa, a Nigerian, was elected. On the new Limerick City/County Council Labour candidate, Elena Secas from Moldova, was elected.

Perhaps part of the answer for this low take up can be found in the parallel experience of the Traveller Community in Ireland.

Recently deceased Traveller activist, Nan Joyce, became the first member of her community to stand for public office when she contested the 1982 general election.

Ellen Mongan was the first Irish Traveller to achieve elected office when she was elected to Tuam Town Council in 1994. It was this same town council that made Martin Ward its Mayor in 2003.

15 years later there has been no apparent shift in the tectonic plates for either Irish Travellers or members of New Irish communities.

Coming elections are unlikely to see significant changes in the representation of Travellers or those from New Irish communities in our local government system. It would be nice if some progress could be made.

We need to identify and remove whatever obstacles exist to improve the unacceptable under-representation that exists in our systems of governance.

Some of these obstacles exist within the communities themselves. There can be a lack of awareness of the need of or the ability to, register to vote. There is an even greater reticence to subsequently put themselves forward as candidates.

This is the first and most important obstacle that needs to be overcome. The more Irish Travellers and more New Irish community members who can be encouraged to put their name on ballot papers, the more the law of averages can be used to ensure their election in greater numbers.

And don’t start me on the women.

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


40 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Tribal Politics

    1. Yep

      Born and raised. Not the point.

      I would question the “whatever obstacles” though. Last few years has seem many organisations push for people to register to vote. Personally I just think its a matter of time and not really something that needs a great push unless purely for optics. Which is wrongheaded IMO.

  1. Ollie Cromwell

    The Irish are racist Dan.
    Simple as that.
    The New Irish,as you so quaintly describe immigrants,learn it on day one.
    My Polish gardener has tales to tell that would make you wince.

        1. Brother Barnabas

          just worried that he’ll ruin it for all of us if he doesn’t keep to character. consistency matters. look what happened to frilly…

          1. Why do I even care?


            I don’t think consistency is the hallmark of a good troll.

            I would say rampant inconsistency is a more valuable trait in that game.

            Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sé

          2. Brother Barnabas

            fair enough, see your point

            if he’s going for reckless inconsistency, though, he should go big – from slovakian gardener to polish gardener isn’t a wide enough swing. i’d have gone for “my senegalese seedsman” or “honduran horticulturalist” or “belgian bumboy”

      1. Ollie Cromwell

        No,the handydman is Slovakian,the gardener is Polish.
        What nationality are the poor barmen who have to listen to your drunken barstool ramblings at Hannigan and Sons or do you spread your misery around at Mulligan’s and Paddy’s as well ?

        1. Papi

          2/10 tubs, you’ve definitely lost the edge. No fun poking a dead fat corpse.
          RIP Ollie Salmons.
          “He’s gone to the big donut shop in the sky, the arrogant racist”-Everyone

          1. Ollie Cromwell

            That was last year.
            He went home to be replaced by a Pole.
            You’ll notice which nationalities I prefer to employ for their reliability and work ethic …

          2. Papi

            “I never respond.”
            You just can’t catch a break, tubs, begging, now whining about being misunderstood?
            The empire has truly fallen, but trolling must be tolling.
            Heh heh heh

        2. Papi

          @why do I even care
          To be fair, tubs was a masterful troll in the beginning, but now he makes david look like Ernest Hemingway.

    1. Papi

      Schrodinger’s garden. Charger thinks he has a garden and a gardener, but is too fat to check.
      Does the garden exist?

    2. Cú Chulainn

      That must be your UK old bean. The country that would prefer to commit an act of economic harra kiri rather than have a Polish gardener.. there are exceptions to the rule but most Polish people are made very welcome in Ireland.

      1. Ollie Cromwell

        You’re talking out of your hoop again.
        ” Relatively high levels of discriminatory attitudes towards immigrants, based on social, economic and cultural considerations, are a cause for concern according to research conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) on behalf of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

        It found Irish-born people have become less welcoming than our European neighbours and urges a more inclusive and tolerant society. ”


          1. Papi

            Begging for agreement now? Oh, put on some pants and put away the keyboard, kid, you’ve become a parody, which for you, is internet death.
            Farewell, tubs.

  2. Hansel

    I’d like to see more minority representation also, but what % of the population are we talking about?
    I think it’s one TD for 25,000 people or so, but I’m not sure there’s minority groups that are 25,000 strong in any electoral area. So perhaps we need instead to think of first-preference votes, in which case they need something like 8-10,000 or so which sounds achievable.

    If the numbers stack up, then minority quotas to go with the gender quotas might be something to consider, where parties need to put forward 25% minority candidates or something like that.

  3. Andrew

    Let’s do identity politics, positive discrimination, quotas.

    You won’t ever get my vote because you will always persist with this nonsense.

    Apart from that, the sight of your erstwhile leader John Gormley, pretending there was nothing wrong with propping up Ahern, even after revelations emerged of his finances, is enough for me to know the standards you have. Your current leader was there too and he’s up there with Aodhan O’Riordan when it comes to smarmy, smug, hypocritical, politics.
    This is why no serious adult gives you a vote.
    Trevor Sargent at least had integrity.

    1. Cú Chulainn

      He’ll be back to say that’s all fake news.. !!! Anyway, Sargent turned out like the rest in the end..

      1. Andrew

        Well, he resigned as he didn’t agree with propping up the corrupt fianna fail party in government.
        How did he turn out like the rest? he’s a priest now.

  4. scottser

    get in touch with your local public participation network and/or volunteer network. they regularly hold capacity building training and can assist with either getting onto local committees or getting items onto agendas.

  5. baz

    dan, you are wrong

    identity politics is dead, your ideas are rejected time and again by the electorate at the ballot box.

    how about a TD from wherever or whoever that represents all their constituents? that is what many work silently doing.
    Virtue signalers be damned.

  6. Shane

    Cultural Marxist Identity politics is bs, learn from from the rise of populism across the West and stop pushing this toxic ideology

Comments are closed.