*Amanda Major. Photograph: Martin Connolly

NIGERIAN born Amanda Major (IND) has criticised the lack of diversity within Clare County Council while pitching herself to become the first Nigerian born elected member of the local authority.

In 2019, Cllr Yemi Adenuga (FG) became the first elected black female public representative in Ireland and the first migrant councillor on the Meath County Council.

Five years ago, Amanda herself was bidding for such a tag but received just 200 first preferences in the Ennis Municipal District and was eliminated on the third count. She said she wasn’t aware of the vote she got until months after the elections which was part of the learning experience.

A single mother of four, Amanda reflected, “In 2019 that was a new fit for me, I started my campaign very late, the election was in May and I started my campaign in March because I was in college as well, I came from nowhere”.

She maintained that has been “so active” over the past five years to try build up her profile. “I’ve been involved in different groups and meeting different people, getting involved in solution making and trying to get help in different areas, I’ve been involved in the community. Hopefully with that level of involvement and knocking on the doors, I’ll be listening to the people and take what they are saying on the board”.

Groups Amanda is involved with include the Association of Nigeria in Co Clare, the women’s network, Clare PPN and the Clare Volunteer Centre. “For years I’ve been very active in the local community and have been active working with different groups, I’ve been involved in the community and people come to me with one need or the other, I’ve gone to the TDs or the Senators or Cllrs with issues I have”. She is one of the residents to have moved into the new social housing development, An Cosán Gheal in Ennis.

Clare’s 28 councillors fail to represent how diverse the county is, the former Direct Provision resident stated. “Ireland as a place is a different place to what it was 20 years ago when we came, I’ve been here for 21 years now, Ireland is a different place, you won’t go into Tesco and see just one set of people, there’s different people and faces you will see, there’s so much diversity in Clare and all over Ireland. Other countries are doing good but I think Clare County Council should represent the community, they are representing the people of Clare, that is not just one set of people”.

An Irish citizen since 2015, Amanda admitted she feels a sense of pride at being Irish when abroad but not within local government in Clare. “Anytime I go to Spain and see an Irish bar, there is a joy in me that I have to go in there and sit down for a pint of Guinness, I can relate to being Irish, this is representing me in a foreign country, that is the same feeling when I walk into an organisation like a Government office, I want to feel that sense of representation which Clare County Council doesn’t have, we don’t have it in Ennis or Clare, there’s no foreigner or any other nationalities as a councillor”.

Diversity does not exist in Clare County Council, she claimed. “I’m not going in there as a representative of the immigrants, I’m going there as a new voice for Clare County Council and with a sense of active listening, it would be nice to have that diversity in Clare County Council”.

On three occasions, Amanda has unsuccessfully applied for jobs with the local authority. “I’m advocating that Clare County Council needs to have that diversity, I was speaking to somebody, one of the staff and she goes ‘there is diversity, she said we have people that come into work’ and I said ‘as what the cleaner’, are we saying immigrants are only good enough to be the cleaner”. She emphasised that the Council needs to try harder to demonstrate it is diverse, “We need to do more than put it down on paper, I need to be able to come into an office and see a Chinese, African or a Spanish person”.

Engagement from elected representatives was also criticised by the TUS graduate. “It takes a long time to get a response, I think the Council needs a new voice, a new voice is needed in the Council for the community, what is going on in the community we need a new voice for Ennis, I think they are not listening, when people are in the job for a long time they are so reliable, we keep voting them in but most of them don’t listen to the community or what the community is saying, I think it is time the community wakes up”.

“They are trying to buy you over to what they are saying but they are not listening,” she stressed. “Looking at the GPs it is very difficult to get a GP in Ennis, then you have some areas that they are actually vacant roles for GPs to fill, the community’s without a GP are struggling,” Amanda stated.

Over the past five years, Amanda has been a member of both the Green Party and Fianna Fáil but has left both, she resigned as a party member of Fianna Fáil in the past fornight prior to launching her election bid.

She was with the Greens for over a year after the 2019 local elections and explained her reasons for leaving them. “I’m more of a community person, the community person is not tied down to one particular policy, you can see how you can actually be involved and look at the community needs and positive development for the Greens”. She continued, “During our meetings I made it known to them that our issues are not climate change, of course climate change is a big thing but that is not an issue that Clare needs, look at housing and the hospital”

With Fianna Fáil she put herself before the membership twice, first in the co-option for Mark Nestor’s seat in November 2022 and in October 2023 for their selection convention for June’s elections. “First I joined Fianna Fáil because I was invited to for the co-option, then I went to study their policiies and what they stand for,” she recounted. “I stand for my beliefs, I went to join them, I enjoyed my time with them and I learned so much on the experience of being a party member. Being part of an active party was a big thing for me, I want to learn as much as I can, I was an active member, I was the women and equality officer with them before I resigned”.

Had she been selected by the party, Amanda would not have resigned as a member. “I was active and wanted to see how I’d perform with Fianna Fáil in Ennis, I think the party needs a bit of change, I was doing my bit as a young person and also an immigrant. I would have stayed if I was given the nomination. I left because I have an ambition to run”.

Reflecting the voices of the public regarding the Ennis 2040 strategy is another goal of Amanda if elected. “2040 is a big development, there are good aspects to it, there’s so much good around it, I’ll go back to the drawing board, I’ll bring active listening to the table and see what people are saying. The work of a councillor you don’t have the powers to create policy on your own, what you do is lobby and push for something to happen, what you’re pushing for should be what people want because it is the people electing you, don’t lose touch of that. I will push for what the people want and make life easier for the community”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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