Neil O’Boyle
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Politics, professions and participation
Immigrants in the Irish public sphere
in Tolerance and diversity in Ireland, North and South
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This chapter examines the tensions experienced by African political candidates in Ireland between a commitment to politics in a formal or professional sense and a commitment to looser, more community-bound notions of politics. While drawing on empirical research in the Irish context, its principal aim is to tease out broader insights and stimulate more nuanced reflection on the experience of entry into politics for African candidates in Ireland. The first part of the chapter considers a number of perspectives on professions and professionalism, which contrast in various ways with how African candidates understand politics. The second part examines the ‘communities of practice’ approach, which offers another route into studying professions and is particularly useful in highlighting the interrelationship between learning and professional identity formation. The final part of the chapter examines a recent political internship scheme in Ireland called “Opening Power to Diversity”, which matches volunteer migrants with political ministers, in light of the preceding discussion. Though commendable, it is suggested that such initiatives will achieve little if they are limited to the cultivation of normative majority perspectives on politics.

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