Saturday 21 April 2018

Minister wants Fine Gael to run Travellers in general elections

Minister David Stanton
Minister David Stanton
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Minister for Equality David Stanton wants members of the Traveller community and ethnic minorities to run for Fine Gael in future general elections.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Stanton said he also wants to see more people from diverse backgrounds nominated to the Seanad by the Taoiseach.

The Fine Gael Minister of State said his party should lead the charge and make politics more inclusive by running candidates from different ethnic groups in the next local elections.

"We have a local election coming up in a few years' time and I would like to see people nominated and standing for election at local authority level from different ethnic groups," Mr Stanton said.

"I would like to see more people from different backgrounds getting involved. Whether it's European citizens or citizens from outside the EU, people who are refugees or people from the travelling and Roma community as well," he added.

The latest census showed more than 17pc of Irish residents, or 810,406 people, were born outside of Ireland. The highest numbers of non- nationals are Polish, followed by British, Lithuanian, Romanian and Latvian.

The number of people who categorised themselves as Chinese or Asian increased by almost 30pc in the latest census. The Travelling community increased by 5pc and there are now more than 30,000 people claiming Traveller identity. Despite the high level of diversity among citizens living in Ireland, there are very few people from these communities active in Irish politics.

"The diversity we talk about in Ireland is relatively new, and in the UK and US they have had diverse populations for quite a bit and people have had an opportunity to emerge as leaders in their communities and get elected, but it is relatively new what's going on here in respect of new communities and diversity," Mr Stanton said.

"Across the board fewer and fewer people are getting involved in politics and it is something we have to encourage more people to get involved in. We need people with ability and vision and energy to get involved in politics at all levels.

"I would be delighted, in fact, to see people representing different communities in the country standing for election for Fine Gael," he added.

Mr Stanton was at the forefront of the Government's decision to recognise the ethnic status of the Traveller community and chaired the Oireachtas Justice Committee that recommended giving Travellers ethnic status.

In his Fine Gael election victory speech, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his appointment showed "prejudice has no hold in this republic."

However, Mr Varadkar, whose father is Indian, is the only prominent Irish politician with a different ethnic background to the rest of his Dail colleagues.

All of former Taoiseach Enda Kenny's appointments to the Seanad were white Irish people.

Former Sinn Fein TD and current senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn is a member of the Travelling community and has campaigned for Traveller rights throughout his career. Bernard Sweeney, who is also a member of Travelling community, ran as an Independent in the last general election. Mr Sweeney received 129 votes in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency.

Sunday Independent

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