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Record number of councillors from migrant backgrounds win seats in local elections

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A record number of candidates from migrant backgrounds have been elected to county councils across the country.

This year’s local election included the highest number of candidates either born overseas or who were born in Ireland to parents born overseas.

As counting continued with just a handful of seats to be filled on Tuesday, Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigration Council of Ireland, estimated that, by the final count, there will be as many as 21 councillors from migrant backgrounds.

“Final results are still awaited but it will be 21 by our count,” he said.

This amounts to just over 2 per cent of the 949 councillors elected in the election and compares with nine councillors from migrant backgrounds elected in 2019.

More than 100 candidates from migrant backgrounds ran for council seats in the June 7th election, compared with 56 five years ago.

The successful candidates included a father-and-son team elected in south Dublin.

Baby Pereppadan, the Fine Gael candidate who was elected in Tallaght South in southwest Dublin, said the city has a larger population of people with migrant backgrounds, “so the chances of winning were higher this time”.

The three-time councillor from Tallaght South was elected to South Dublin County Council alongside his son, Britto Pereppadan, who won as a first-time candidate from Tallaght Central.

“It is a great feeling for both me and my son to work for our constituency and serve the people,” he said.

Baby Pereppadan moved to Ireland in 2001 from Kerala in India.

“I ran as an independent candidate for the first time in 2009 but lost by 65 votes. Back then there were few immigrant candidates, but now the number has doubled, and is only going to rise in future,” he said.

“I started working with Fine Gael in 2019 after winning the seat and people took me seriously.”

Baby Pereppadan said concerns over antisocial behaviour were increasing in pockets of the city. He aims to tackle this issue now he has been elected again.

“I faced issues of racial discrimination during 2009. Someone threw an axe at my car’s windscreen and during canvassing stole things from inside the car,” he said.

“It was bad then but has been better this year. After 2019 I gathered positive responses from the majority population and pushed to contest this time”.

Increased antisocial and racist behaviour was faced by Feljin Jose, the Green Party candidate who won a seat on Dublin City Council for Cabra-Glasnevin.

Jose came to Ireland from India at the age of nine.

“I received a lot of online abuse which later turned into in-person attacks in the last couple of months. An old man spat in my direction during one of the campaigns,” he said.

“People also abused me verbally on the streets, shouted at me and told me to go back to India. I also received threats on WhatsApp. This election has been toxic.”

He believes further diversity is needed in Irish politics.

“We need more diversity across the spectrum to achieve the goal of a secure and liveable city,” he said.

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