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'I won't put up with any bullsh*t from a man telling me I'm a token seat'

Newly-elected representatives Yemi Adenuga, Eileen Flynn and Hazel Chu are giving a voice to marginalised groups in society. Ellen Coyne talks to the game-changing politicians about the challenges they've faced in their political lives and their vision for a more inclusive Ireland

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Senator Yemi Adenuga., Senator Eileen Flynn, and Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu. Hazel Chu and Yemi Adenuga photographed by Kyle Tunney, assisted by Liadh Connolly. Eileen Flynn photographed by Lorcan Doherty

Senator Yemi Adenuga., Senator Eileen Flynn, and Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu. Hazel Chu and Yemi Adenuga photographed by Kyle Tunney, assisted by Liadh Connolly. Eileen Flynn photographed by Lorcan Doherty

Senator Yemi Adenuga. Photo: Kyle Tunney

Senator Yemi Adenuga. Photo: Kyle Tunney

Human rights activist: Senator Eileen Flynn was appointed in July

Human rights activist: Senator Eileen Flynn was appointed in July

Chain of command:  Hazel Chu is Lord Mayor of Dublin and the first person of colour to hold the office. Photo: Kyle Tunney

Chain of command: Hazel Chu is Lord Mayor of Dublin and the first person of colour to hold the office. Photo: Kyle Tunney

Eileen Flynn at her home in Ardara, County Donegal.

Eileen Flynn at her home in Ardara, County Donegal.

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Senator Yemi Adenuga., Senator Eileen Flynn, and Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu. Hazel Chu and Yemi Adenuga photographed by Kyle Tunney, assisted by Liadh Connolly. Eileen Flynn photographed by Lorcan Doherty

Eileen Flynn had only spoken in the Seanad about half a dozen times when she stood up to make a brief speech about direct provision. It was July 30, a little over a month since 30-year-old Flynn became the first Traveller ever elected to the Irish parliament after she was appointed to the Seanad by Micheál Martin.

Standing between the polished wooden benches and plush green leather seats of the chamber, Flynn stood in a grey hoodie and black jeans. She was talking about asylum seekers in a hotel in Kerry who had gone on hunger strike in protest at conditions they had been forced to live in. Standing in front of the justice minister and rocking slightly from one foot to another, Flynn was reading from a sheet of paper which shook in her hands.

"I'm sorry, minister, I'm a little bit nervous reading," she said. Flynn suffers from dyslexia and has mentioned a number of times that she struggles with reading aloud. She continued: "We have a long history in Ireland of treating unwanted people a certain way. As an unwanted person, I know what that feels like."


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