The Opening Power to Diversity (OPD) scheme ran from 2012 to 2015. It was a ground-breaking initiative for migrant political integration.
Political participation is one of the basic principles of successful migrant integration. The 2011 Census showed 12% of the population of Ireland is non-Irish. Between January 2005 and June 2012 some 42,000 people became Irish citizens through naturalisation. Irish citizens of migrant background are a growing group and part of Irish society. Levels of political representation and participation need to increase accordingly.
The 2011 General Election saw a handful of new Irish citizens run for the Dáil – approximately 3 of the 564 people who ran for the 166 seats were naturalised Irish citizens. Ireland needs to improve this level of political participation significantly if Irish citizens of migrant background and migrant issues are to be represented at the central place of power in our society.
In response to this situation Crosscare Migrant Project ran a scheme to enhance the transparency of Irish politics for all and make it more accessible and meaningful to a marginalised and growing group of people that constitute 12% of the population of Ireland. The OPD Scheme, following on from recommendations of the report by the Africa Solidarity Centre in 2003 called Positive Politics and drawing from the example of an MP Shadowing Scheme that has been operating in the UK since 1999, with the support of the European Integration Fund Crosscare Migrant Project started up a TD Shadowing scheme for people with a migrant background – the Opening Power to Diversity Scheme (OPD Scheme).
Through the OPD scheme participants benefitted from direct experience of the work of TDs. Participants were matched with a particular TD for two days a week over a six-month period. They attended Committee meetings, Dáil sessions and other meetings held by the TD. The participants worked as part of the TDs office staff and actively contributed to the work of the TD. Participants also assisted with constituency work. TDs from all parties and Independents were recruited to participate. The scheme was a voluntary position and no financial remuneration was involved.
Impact objectives of the scheme
The ultimate aim of the scheme was to help facilitate greater involvement in politics of people of a migrant background. More particularly the impact of the OPD Scheme was on three levels:
- The direct experience for the participant and the variety of immediate benefits entailed in this such as an increased and unique knowledge of, connection with and insight into the political system
- A stronger connection, understanding and sense of relevance of the political system among people of a migrant background
- The promotion of diversity among politicians, the political establishment and society at large.
Click here for our report on the first year of the Opening Power to Diversity Scheme, with participants’ diaries and feedback from the TDs and Senators involved