Nigerians Paul Osikoya and Tokie Lotan broke new ground in Galway politics when they became the first non-nationals to run for elections to the Galway City Council in 2004.
Mr Osikoya will again break new political ground in the 2009 Local Elections but this time in the Galway County Council area and as a member of a political party.
Mr Osikoya will be the first non-national to run for The Green Party for the Tuam Town Coucnil in next year’s local elections. In turn the Greens become the first party in Galway to select a foreign national to stand for them.
The Greens have been keen to do this for some time. In 2004, the party asked a then prominent member of Galway’s Islamic community to stand for election. Although interested, she declined the offer.
Labour appear not to have any plans to run non-nationals but at last year’s general election there was a noticeable presence of Galway based Africans involved in canvassing for the party and at the party table in the count centre.
The day when the city and/or county has its first black, Slavic, Muslim, etc, councillor is a matter of when, not if. Encouraging members of Galway’s different foreign communities to participate in local politics is an important way to encourage integration into Irish society and make connections between native and newcomer.
While the Greens and Labour have taken the lead in this issue in Galway it remains to be seen if Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael will realise that non-nationals have a vote in the locals and are a pool to be tapped into