Cllr Abul Kalam Azad Talukder was elected deputy mayor of the city and county of Limerick at the recent AGM of the local authority PICTURE: Brian Arthur
THE chief executive of migrant rights charity Doras Luimni has called on people to “rally around” Limerick’s new deputy mayor.
John Lannon was speaking after Fianna Fail councillor Abul Kalam Azad Talukder was targetted with what’s been described as “repulsive” and “racist” abuse on the Internet.
In the days after he was decisively elected as deputy mayor of the city and county, far-right commentator Gemma O’Doherty published a picture of the Bangladeshi national, and wrote: “If we don't take back our country very soon, it will be gone again, but this time for good.”
Many of her followers on the social media network site appeared to agree with her remarks.
Mr Lannon said Doras is “appalled that the race, ethnicity or religion of any public representative would be used as an opportunity to spread intolerance and hate.”
“The recent general elections have shown that there is next-to-no public support for people and parties that overtly carry anti-immigrant, far-right views,” he added.
Cllr Talukder – who became Limerick’s first Muslim member last summer – agreed with that point, saying: “It is very disappointing, but she couldn't even get elected herself. She has no mandate. People in Limerick City West elected me. I was elected by the people, I was even elected deputy mayor. That's why I won't use my energy for her.”
“It makes me very sad. My family and my community worry. I've had a lot of calls on this, not just from Limerick, but from Cork, Waterford and elsewhere after the racist attack. I told my community, don't be sad. Irish people have already proven they are not like this.”
Ms O’Doherty’s comments have been reported to Twitter, while newly appointed Minister of State Niall Collins deemed the remarks as “repulsive in the extreme”.
“The less media focus and attention she [Ms O’Doherty] gets, the better. Azad represents the face of a changing Limerick, and it is right we embrace all creeds, cultures and none, all parts of society,” he said.
Fellow City West councillor Daniel Butler was one of dozens to also report the comments to Twitter. He said: “The election of Azad is reflective of Limerick and the new Irish society we have. Everyone has been enriched by new cultures which have come in. We are the better for them.”
Cllr Butler said he felt if he didn’t do anything, he would be “complicit” in the abuse.“I think it's important not just as a public official, but a citizen, I condemn anything that I see as racist against any individual.”
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