Shawn Pogatchnik, AP, June 28, 2007
Ireland elected its first black mayor Thursday, the latest sign of how rapid immigration is changing this once all-white nation.
Rotimi Adebari, a Nigerian who arrived in Ireland seven years ago as an asylum-seeker, was elected unopposed to lead the council of Portlaoise, a bustling commuter town west of Dublin.
Adebari, 43, who has been an independent politician on Portlaoise Town Council since 2004, was backed by both the right-wing Fine Gael party and left-wing Sinn Fein.
Adebari, who planned a post-election party Friday at the new parish hall in Portlaoise, called it “a great honor to become the No. 1 citizen of the town.”
Little more than a decade ago, a black person in Ireland risked being gawked at, so rare was the sight of visitors from different racial backgrounds. But Ireland has absorbed more than 30,000 asylum seekers—particularly from Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria—since the mid-1990s, a wave attracted by Ireland’s booming economy and its relatively lax immigration rules.