A Nigerian man who arrived here seven years ago seeking asylum has become Ireland's first black mayor.
Rotimi Adebari (43), an independent member of Portlaoise Town Council, has been elected mayor of the town at a council meeting this afternoon.
He was elected under a mayoral pact that sees the position rotate among the Fine Gael/Sinn Féin/independent members of the council.
Speaking to The Irish Timesyesterday, Mr Adebari said he wanted to use his year as mayor to say to immigrants that Ireland is a "land of opportunities, and it is a country that is described as a place of a thousand welcomes".
Mr Adebari arrived in Dublin with his wife and two children in 2000 fleeing religious persecution and later settled in Portlaoise.
He was elected to the town council as an independent in 2004, polling 321 first-preference votes.
Since then he has set up Optimum Point, a consultancy that trains companies and educational institutions in cross-cultural awareness. He has a Masters in Intercultural Studies from Dublin City University.
Mr Adebari works for Laois County Council co-ordinating an integration project for local immigrants.
Green Party leader and Minister of State Trevor Sargent congratulated Mr Adebari on his election as Mayor of Portlaoise.
"His new position as mayor and first citizen of Portlaoise will, I hope, be an encouragement for more people to get involved in politics and bring about greater representation for Ireland's new communities," Mr Sargent said.
"Cllr Adebari's personal story of fleeing religious persecution in Nigeria and creating a new, productive life for himself and his family in Ireland, is extremely inspiring. I wish him the best in his year in office and hope that he achieves his mission of dispelling prejudices and fostering a greater understanding of, and engagement with, immigrant communities in Ireland."