A Local Government Bill due to be published before the end of the year, will introduce “diversity” quotas in politics.
Some 12 percent of the Irish population is now made up of migrants but only 31 non-Irish candidates ran in the last local elections in 2014. Three of these candidates were eventually elected.
The Minister of state for local government and electoral reform, John Paul Phelan, is preparing the bill ahead of the 2019 local elections. Political parties will lose funding if they fail to put forward candidates from non-white backgrounds.
Phelan expects that quotas will be set somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent. “If you base it on 12 percent of the population [being from a migrant background] it should mean that in most of the Dublin wards you would be getting a migrant elected but because they are not a homogeneous group, it can be more difficult.”
There is no stipulation around how long a person must be in Ireland for eligibility, he said.
Parties who meet the quotas will receive money to hire an “equality and diversity officer” to promote racial integration in politics, the Irish Examiner reported.
Gender quotas have already been introduced for general elections, but at local level no legislation currently exists.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government however wants to introduce similar measures to include migrants and other minorities.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland is therefore working with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on a multilingual information campaign to encourage candidates to stand.
Integration outreach officer with the Immigrant Council, Joe O’Brien, said: “We need people to start running, to diversify the ballot paper, to put some colour on the posters up on the poles.”
“We need to test the waters and we are saying to people, try it out, we will give you guidance, don’t be disappointed if you don’t win, run a campaign that you can get something out of.”
He added: “We need people to be groundbreakers, we need people to be role models in the community, we need people to make a stand on a particular issue. We are saying you can use the local election campaign as a way of raising issues, be they local or national.”