FIANNA Fáil councillor Abul Kalam Azad Talukder has been on the receiving end of racist abuse since his elevation to the position of Deputy Mayor of Limerick.
The 52-year-old became the first Muslim to be elected to Limerick City and County Council after the local elections last summer. And last week at Limerick Racecourse, Abul received another honour as council members voted for him to wear the chains of Deputy Mayor.
But a sour taste has been left with Cllr Talukder after beating Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan by 31 votes to eight on the day.
Speaking to the Limerick Post this week, the Bangladeshi father-of-two, who runs a number of local businesses and operates two taxis in the city, revealed that he has been the victim of racist abuse since being made Deputy Mayor.
“People from Dublin and Waterford and different parts of Ireland have phoned me in recent days to say they are sorry.
“What are they sorry for? They are phoning me to apologise about racist abuse they have read about me posted on Twitter and other online sites. But I don’t even read these abusive and racist messages. I am too busy building a better Limerick for everyone, for my family, and all families,” he explained.
Abul first came to Limerick in 2000 and started work with Fianna Fail in 2004 as an aide to former Junior Minister Peter Power within the migrant community. His father was a politician in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and he is now following in those footsteps and making his own contribution as a representative for Limerick City West.
Cllr Talukder is passionate about Limerick and says the city has given him a happy life. He works tirelessly to be a voice not only for the migrant community, but for all communities. He also believes that those with racist views need to be re-educated.
“The people of Limerick elected me to be their representative. The members of Limerick City and County Council then elected me to be Deputy Mayor. I was the only one who speaks different, is a different colour, a different religion, and still I got 31 votes out of 39. I can’t turn around and say Limerick people are racist because they are not.
“Limerick is where I call home. My children were born here and are Irish citizens. As a father and a local representative, I am focused on building a better future for them and their generation, and all people.
“The people that use racist slurs to try and put me down, they are the minority. They are the ones that need to change and need to be re-educated. I love Limerick and am proud to call it home,” he concluded.