Two African candidates standing in the upcoming local elections have been racially abused while canvassing in separate parts of Dublin. A death threat issued to one of the candidates is now under investigation by gardaí.
Zimbabwean Green Party candidate Tendai Madondo and South African independent candidate Patrick Maphoso have both experienced racism on the hustings but say this has made them more determined to win a council seat and help change attitudes.
Maphoso, who is standing for election in the north inner city, was forced to withdraw from canvassing recently when a threat was made to his life. "I was canvassing on the North Circular Road when I approached two guys on the street and was about to introduce myself. Before I got the chance, one of them said: 'Get off this street, black people make me sick.' Then the younger of the two men said: 'If you don't get off this street, I'll put a bullet in your head.' I was afraid for the safety of my canvassing team, so we left the area immediately," he told the Sunday Tribune.
Maphoso has reported the incident to gardaí at the Bridewell station. "For someone to say they want to put a bullet in my head, that worries me. They were not drunk or on drugs. Aside from that incident, I've received a very positive reception from people. What happened has encouraged me to keep going. It shows me that change is needed. I understand that change is pain for some people. It's not always easy for some people to accept others."
Maphoso has since returned to canvassing on the North Circular Road and insisted he would not be bullied by anyone, but is taking the threat seriously. "I'm worried to a certain extent about my personal safety. It is up to the gardaí now to offer protection to all the citizens of this country."
Over the past few weeks, a campaign car used by Madondo when driving around Tallaght has been spat at and people have also stubbed out cigarettes on it. As a result, she has written to justice minister Dermot Ahern "asking him to be mindful that migrants do not become pigeonholed".
She said that generally she has received a very warm reception while out on the hustings and that many immigrants were experiencing far more serious racial abuse. "At least I can speak out, at least I have a platform to discuss this. A lot of migrants are experiencing racism and discrimination. In an economic downturn, people are frustrated," she said. "Most people have given me a great reception. The people I've met are open to new and fresh perspectives."
Despite the fact that 10% of the country's population is made up of non-Irish nationals, this is not reflected in our elected political representatives. All 166 sitting TDs are 'white Irish' but various immigrants have been elected to local councils in recent years.
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