Thursday 24 October 2019

'People are saying to me that there should be more diversity in politics'

The 'new Irish' candidate: Obi Ekoba (20) Fine Gael, Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Dublin

Fine Gael Election Candidate Obi Ekoba at his home in Drimnagh with his No.1 suppoter Mum Amaka Ikoba.
Fine Gael Election Candidate Obi Ekoba at his home in Drimnagh with his No.1 suppoter Mum Amaka Ikoba.

Obi was born in Nigeria and moved to Dublin with his parents when he was two years old. He was brought up in Drimnagh and is currently in his third year of a Law degree at Trinity College Dublin.

"I became interested in politics in secondary school. Both of my parents were apolitical and no-one else in the family has any interest in politics. But I was always interested in debates and I joined the debating society in college. I like general philosophy - about how things should be.

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"In college, I decided I wanted to join a political party and it was either going to be Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael - it was never going to be one of the leftist parties. The reason I entered Fine Gael over Fianna Fáil was because I felt that Fine Gael was more open to new people and to people without any political backgrounds. Fianna Fáil felt more like, 'Oh, your father was in Fianna Fáil and his father before him was in Fianna Fáil'.

"For a long time before I joined, I didn't realise Leo Varadkar had an Indian parent. It wasn't until someone mentioned it to me. I knew Leo was gay but I just assumed he was really dark. To be honest, I don't think about race that often.

I don't think Ireland is that multicultural outside of Dublin. A lot of my friends are from the countryside and and it's not uncommon for a whole village to be completely white and for families to have lived there for generations. Go to somewhere like Donegal and you don't see many black faces.

I feel politics should be for everybody and I wish some immigrants to this country would engage more with politics.

As a Fine Gael candidate, it's sometimes an automatic closing of doors. They bring up the Children's Hospital. They bring up homelessness. I wouldn't really start off by saying, 'I'm the Fine Gael candidate'. I start off by introducing myself. They'd be more interested in the fact that I'm young. I'm not really getting any reaction for being black. Instead, people are saying to me that there should be more diversity in politics.

I think Fine Gael have tried hard to deal with the housing issue. They may have been in government for eight years but a good four of those years was trying to get the country back on track. They didn't inherit a good situation. Then after they got the country back on track, they've been trying to tackle housing - but it's not something that can be done overnight.

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