The Polish vote could swing it in 2009

The Polish vote could be among the largest, perhaps most crucial, of any group at next year’s Local Elections - but is anything being done to make Galway Poles aware they have voting power?

Under current legislation, citizens of Ireland, or a person who is ordinarily resident in the State, who has reached the age of 18 years or over by September is entitled to stand for and/or vote at local elections.

The term “ordinarily resident” includes non-nationals and is sufficiently broad enough to also include refugees and asylum seekers. As such, Galway’s East European, African, Muslim, and Far Eastern communities are entitled to vote and/or stand in the 2009 Local Elections.

Galway’s Polish community is arguably the largest non-national group in the city. There are many Polish communities within its numerous housing estates and it is reckoned there are 1,500 Poles in Knocknacarra alone.

This potentially makes them an important constituency and one the city’s political parties should not ignore. Indeed the non-national vote is a substantial one and encouraging participation in the political system will help in the process of integration and bring much needed diversity and hopefully some fresh thinking to Galway politics.

Is there anything being done however to alert Galway Poles or Africans, etc, that they have this right to vote, and that they are entitled to use it? To an extent the Greens and Labour have recognised this but Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael remain blissfully unaware.

Perhaps the Galway city and county councils should hold a number of election information events with information in Polish, Latvian, French, etc, to get non-nationals involved in local politics, make them aware of their voting rights, and by extension help with the process of integration.

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