Ghanaian Alf wants an ‘Operation: Transformation’ for minorities in Irish politics
2018-01-15 16:55:00 -
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The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin


"My best moments are when I got married and when I bought my first car," Alf says. "I am a car lunatic.”

 

Alf Marshall Agyapong is so much more than that. The Ghanaian came to Ireland in 2002 for what he calls “an adventure and of course for a greener pasture”, relying on what his former school headmistress, Sister Mary Connaughton, had told him about the country.

 

“Falling in love with the countryside with inviting and idyllic landscapes, Ireland is great place to live, and the people as well as the quality education system are fantastic,” he says.

 

Long since settled, Alf says he was swept off his feet by what he feels makes Ireland a commonwealth country: “The Irish judiciary, education, religion, legal system … and the most phenomenal is the Queen’s language which is shared and spoken widely.”

 

Alf’s interest in politics can be traced back to his homeland, where he was secretary of the current ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi.

 

However, while he is currently vice chair of the main all-immigrant arm of Fine Gael, he believes the political landscape in Ireland is not yet  ready for people of his background.

 

“I have no political ambition now, only to lay a political platform and bridge for Irish ethnic minorities in the years to come,” says the economics and law graduate with a Master’s in international banking finance.

 

Most immigrants face the challenge of their opinion being dismissed because they are foreigners whose language skills, cultural belonging and qualifications are often questioned. Recently, Alf commented on social media on what he determines to be the astute leadership of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney as being a smooth political operator.

 

“Surprisingly, out of over 500 comments from all and sundry, an indigene asked me straight away ‘What do you know about Irish politics?’ It is a regular occurrence, I am not bothered and distracted by it. 

 

“As a ‘new politician’, it is all about laying foundation and legacy for the posterity of minority background so that they would have a fair say in decisions that affect their everyday lives.”

 

Work experience of the 44-year-old spreads across notable firms like Sherry Fitzgerald and the Law Society of Ireland, working as an accounts officer. Currently he works as part of the support team through Bilfinger HSG Ireland with the Department of Agriculture at Backweston Campus in Celbridge, Co Kildare.

 

Outside of work, he judges racism to be inherent and everywhere in Irish life, to varying degrees. “The [difference] is about the treatment and expression, be it overtly or silently or institutionalised,” he says, emphasising his hope for the Government to “create an avenue for equal employment opportunities, and I will hold my FG government to account to its pledge that one percent of the [frontline] civil service must be from an ethnic background.”

 

Other changes Alf would like to see include scrapping the Universal Social Charge, or USC, introduced in 2008 as an additional tax base to deal with the impact of the global recession.

 

“The USC should be phased out complete now the economy is back on its feet, with a full economic recovery from the downturn. And lastly, the Government should deal with the drug and crime lords in the state ruthlessly.”

 

Alf speaks highly of former TD and Justice Minister Alan Shatter, whom he refers to as “a moderniser and transformational politician that made life easier for most immigrants in the State by simplification of the citizenship process. Now we can all travel within Europe, North America and many other countries with ease without visa restriction.”

 

He also embraces role models like Bob Geldof, who tirelessly lobbies for the poor. “Bob Geldof is someone I cherish most as he is ever ready to defend and sacrifice for the poor like me.”

 

Irrespective of any challenges, Alf says he is integrating well into the Irish system and has great relationships with most native Irish in his life. 

 

“My only beef is the lack of equal employment opportunities for immigrants from Africa backgrounds given that some had education and training here [in Ireland], yet their names disqualify them,” he says. “Most significantly, you apply for a job in your virtue of qualifications and experience, but not even an acknowledgement is given all because your name indicates your origin as an African.”

 

Despite all, Alf says he is an African and deeply and passionately proud of it. He is settled in Ireland with his beloved family, and making the best of it. 

 

“There have [been] difficulties in some quarters, but nonetheless we are soldiering on.”

 


Princess Pamela Toyin has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0) 87 417 9640 or email echoesmediainternational@gmail.com

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