Godfrey Chimbganda is running for the National Executive of Young Fine Gael. A Trinity Masters student, he seeks a sense of integration that he feels that Irish national politics currently lacks. It is a view that might surprise some, given the multicultural make-up of Irish society compared to just thirty years ago. Godfrey disagrees.

“I’m the first ethnic minority to run for a position of this kind in all the political parties,” he says.

What are his reasons for running?

Change, diversity, equity – trying to bring about the sense that the classroom has changed and fb_img_1476047684483because it has changed, this is the best time in Ireland for such a change to happen on the national stage, politically.

And the best ways to achieve this?

You want to bring a sense of integration to politics in Ireland. I believe in participation at all levels, not just as voters but as party members and candidates. We’re lagging behind a lot of countries [in terms of diversity]. This is why international students can come to Ireland and their schools can be shut down – driven to bankruptcy – and the students stuck here.

Godfrey’s party allegiance is something of a surprise: Fine Gael are among the more conservative of mainstream parties in Ireland – not exactly pro-immigrant, although not anti-immigrant either.

Parties like Young Fine Gael have not been able to reach out to ordinary people, so it’s important for Ireland’s political make-up to become more diverse. Do we want people who are different from their colleagues to be segregated?

I believe – when I talk about this – that [politics] is about everyone. Some of my close family members are Irish born and bred, and of what we would regard as traditional Irish ancestry. Being a part of any society comes with rights, and it comes with an urge to contribute. This continues to be a basis of what my life’s about.

Godfrey has been involved in numerous organisations, including local council development budget-allocating groups, and community groups on the local and national levels.

This platform will give me a voice for a lot of other issues. Mental health is important: I have lost three friends to suicide. Broadcasters don’t understand that Ireland has changed – the ethnic diversity of Irish programming should shift to allow for more ethnic minorities.

fb_img_1476047691229But let’s take away the fact that I’m an ethnic minority. There are issues that affect everyone. Young drivers get insurance quotes of €4000. Masters degrees are costing 12-15000. The grant from SUSI is just €3000. There is no incentive for those who have undergraduate status to further their education – and we need skilled people above the primary degree level. We’ve inward investment and foreign direct business coming in and they’re employing people from Germany and France at the top levels because we do not have the skills in Ireland – even at a basic level, our internships are not geared towards specific careers. They are photocopying and coffee-making roles. We have all those problems. We need regulation for international students too. Residents of six months or longer in Ireland can vote in the local elections. The international students are the voters of the future.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Godfrey is a realist in his approach.

I’m not coming in as someone with a red cape – I’m coming from the community. I get how it is now, with the extracurricular activities I have, and getting a platform for that nationally would be a great opportunity.

I’ve worked on festival committees, Dublin City Local Development – I know the sufferings of community groups. As I say, young people are going through first-time experiences and paying a lot of money. For first time buyers of houses it’s expensive and out of reach. Education at any level is expensive for many and out of reach. These are issues I truly want to work on and find solutions. The days of protest politics without solutions are over. Let’s talk what can be done in YFG and the general youth sector. This is our future.

You can follow Godfrey’s campaign for the National Panel on Facebook.

Godfrey seeks a position on the National Executive for Young Fine Gael. You can join YFG through your local branch in college or university.