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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019
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Wybory Lokalne: Meet the Polish nationals who'll be asking for your vote in May

Only a few Polish nationals have put their names on the ballot so far. They’re a varied group — and their reasons for running are just as diverse…

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE COUNTRY CASTS its vote in exactly three months time (23 May) to elect new councillors and MEPS. There are thousands of candidates running for local authorities — in total, 949 seats in 31 councils need to be filled in 137 local election areas.

Amongst the 2014 hopefuls, there are a handful of candidates not originally from Ireland who’ll be asking their neighbours for a vote. The majority are members of the country’s 120,000 + Polish community.

So far, there’s at least six candidates originally from Poland who have confirmed they’re running. Their motivations? As with any cross section of people who put themselves forward for public office — their reasons are diverse.

The candidates

Of the six Polish-born candidates who’ve expressed their intentions to run — Agnieszka Wieczorkowska certainly has the best-established internet presence: a regularly-updated Facebook and Twitter, and a comprehensive website with pages of personal detail.

But why run?

“It’s all about making a difference to the community and to neighbours,” Wieczorkowska told TheJournal.ie.

The 32-year-old psychologist moved to the Ballymun area of Dublin two-and-a-half years ago for work reasons.

She’s thrown herself into community initiatives since then, and is closely involved with the Ballymun Intercultural Group, which helps migrants integrate into the north Dublin community.

“Adjusting to a new country was something I went through myself. You come across all sorts of problems in terms of adjusting — including language issues.”

Amongst the projects the mother-of-one has been involved in is a night-class to teach non-Irish parents a cúpla focail, so they can help their children with their homework.

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[Image: Agnieszka Wieczorkowska]

“Property tax and water tax,” are (unsurprisingly) the top issues Grzegorz Zalewski has been hearing about on the doorsteps in the Kanturk-Mallow district.

The 41-year-old moved to Ireland ten years ago, lives in the area with his partner and ten-year-old son, and works as a planner. He’s running as a ‘People’s Candidate’ this May — a group of candidates that have signed a pledge to seek “a constituency mandate on each issue after the election”.

“It’s all about giving power back to the people,” Zalewski said. If he wins a seat on Cork County Council, he hopes to encourage more Polish people to become involved in community work.

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Grzegorz Zalewski [peoplescandidates.ie]

Of the other Polish nationals putting their name on the ballot, the majority are running in Dublin.

Rafal Kornatka is bidding for a council seat in the North Inner City. The 32-year-old has lived in Dublin for the last nine years, and became an Irish citizen in 2012.

An economic science graduate and former union shop steward, Kornatka is also the leader of a local scout troop and says that “as part of my voluntary service I liaise with many communities and international organizations”.

Most recently, I was instrumental in the organization of an inter-cultural family day for the Dublin City Integration Forum and I became a board member of Dublin City Community Forum.

Overcoming difficulties and facing challenges has always been a big part of my life and now, I am keen to find out how I can engage and support work in our community in Dublin’s North Inner-City.

Kornatka also has some strong opinions on social welfare payments — as he outlined on Prime Time earlier this year.

(Youtube: Krzysztof Łuszczki)

Also running in the city as independents are Lech Szczeciński and Marcin Czechowicz. Szczeciński, a former airline worker and currently a mature student at the Dublin Business School, also put his name on the ballot in 2009 — but admits he “made mistakes” in that campaign.

He told TheJournal.ie he was hoping to win a seat to help give a voice to the immigrant community living in the south inner city area. The 58-year-old moved to Ireland in 2005, became a citizen last year, and says it’s something he takes “very seriously”.

His 2014 campaign is still in its early stages, Szczeciński said, but he plans to have a full website and social media presence established within the next two weeks.

(Youtube: iTVe)

In Limerick, web and graphic designer Krzysztof Luszczki confirmed he would be running for a seat on the city council.

[Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Lech Szczeciński had moved to Ireland in 2009. This has now been amended to 2005]

Read: 23 May the big day for wannabe councillors and MEPS

Read: There’s just 3,000 properties for sale in the capital with Dublin 15 the most popular

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