June 28, 2007

Today was an historic day for local democracy as Portlaoise Town Council elected the first black mayor in the history of Ireland.

Cllr. Rotimi Adebari was elected by a vote of 6 to 3 in a crowded Council Chamber. Cllr. Adebari, a Nigerian national, arrived in Ireland in 2000 and settled in Portlaoise Town. In 2004 he ran for the local Portlaoise Town Council Elections and became the first non-national to take up a position as a public representative in Laois. He then took up the Chair for the election of vice-cathaoirleach, Ms Mary Sweeeny. Both were warmly congratulated by their fellow councillors.

Cllr. Adebari holds an Masters in Intercultural Studies from Dublin City University , he completed this while running in the Town Council's local elections.

He is involved with many intercultural organisations working in co-operation with government agencies to bring about further understanding of the many cultures that are now found in a multi-cultural Ireland.

He is currently co-ordinating a new project entitles 'Fusion' which is aimed at integrating emigrants into the wider community. He hopes to launch this project in the near future.

Cllr. Adebari has received many awards over the years for his work:

  • In 2005, he was given a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award for the programme he hosts on Midlands 104 Radio entitled, Respecting Differences, this deals with Social Inclusion Issues and aims to inspire those who may be experiencing isolation, whatever their background.
  • In 2006, he was the recipient of a Media and Multicultural award held in association with RTE, and sponsored by the National Action Plan Against Racism, The Irish Times and Reception and Integration Agency and Language.
  • Earlier this year he was named Person of the Year in Exclusive magazine in Dublin.

Cllr. Adebari runs his own consultancy in anti-racism and intercultural training called ‘Optimum Point’ (they train companies and educational institutions in cross-cultural awareness) and he is one of the founding members of Supporting Unemployed in Laois (Suil).

Originally appeared on Laois County Council.