Work scheme to encourage migrants to enter politics


A WORK experience scheme to encourage migrants to become involved in politics and to increase diversity in the Oireachtas will be announced today.

Four TDs and Senators have already signed up to support the EU-backed pilot project, which will enable people from migrant backgrounds to work as shadow public representatives for six months.

At least 10 per cent of the population are from migrant backgrounds and growing numbers are becoming Irish citizens through naturalisation. The levels of political representation and participation remain low, however, with just three out of 564 candidates in the last general election being Irish citizens through naturalisation.

Crosscare Migrant Project and the European Commission have teamed up to set up the Opening Power to Diversity placement scheme. It will begin recruiting migrants over the next few weeks and they will start shadowing in autumn. Each migrant will get first-hand experience of working in Leinster House one day a week and of doing constituency work one day a week.

“We want people firstly to get a unique first-hand experience of what life for an Irish politician is like,” said Crosscare policy officer Joe O’Brien. “We also want people to be inspired and feel that politics is now something that they can get involved in.

“Our migrants and new Irish citizens have come to Ireland with energy, fresh ideas and different perspectives – these are things that politics in Ireland needs.”

The aim of the scheme is to promote ethnic diversity among politicians, the political establishment and society at large.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who is participating in the scheme, said it would help to promote greater social justice for new communities. “I hope the experience will be mutually beneficial,” she added. “I will be learning and I hope the volunteer will get a good insight into the political workings in this country.”

Other Oireachtas members who have signed up so far are Averil Power and Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fáil and Labour’s Simon Harris.