On Friday morning, on the Jennifer Zamparelli show on 2FM, Lottie Ryan spoke with the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, about her experience of racism, being a woman in politics, and the need for more diversity in Ireland.
The Green Party councillor was elected as the Lord Mayor of Dublin earlier this summer, making her the ninth woman, and the first person of colour, to be elected to the role.
"It's amazing," she told Lottie. "The gravity of the situation has not escaped me, I do realise what a privileged position I'm in and I have to say thank you to everyone for getting me here. I love that I'm the first but I don't hope to be the last person of colour in the role. I do think that for the next generation to come, it's good to see diversity in these roles and women in these roles."
Born in Dublin after her parents emigrated to Ireland from Hong Kong in the 1970s, Chu says that her mother - who worked washing dishes in restaurants off O'Connell Street and Wicklow Street - never could have imagined that her daughter would work in politics.
"Mam was a dishwasher and worked two jobs, and we knew nothing about politics in our house," she explained. "When you're nine people living in a three-bedroom house, trying to put food on the table, politics are the last thing on your mind."
Speaking about the ceremony, Chu noted that her "tough cookie" of a mother was reduced to tears while sitting in the mansion house. Having originally moved to Ireland for a better life while Hong Kong went through a recession, she never could have known that forty-five years on, her daughter would become Dublin's 352nd Lord Mayor.
"She was bawling," laughed Chu.
Speaking about her experience as a daughter of immigrants, the Dublin woman gushed about the Irish people and their willingness to welcome others: "The great thing about Ireland and it's people is that we're very accepting and we're very loving and very welcoming and we tend to think that everything is possible."
However, she did note that there will always be pockets of people who will try to "tear things down" and that more work needs to be done to support diversity and tackle racism across the country.
"Racism does exist. It's there and it's quite prevalent but, at the same time, it's something that we can tackle," she told Lottie.
Speaking on her own experience of racism, the Lord Major says that she had been on the receiving end of racist remarks "quite a few times" both in her school days and in her new role. Citing research done by Amnesty International, Chu explained that women of colour in politics are likely to receive more abuse than others.
While discussing the need for people to call out inappropriate language and jokes, no matter how casual it may seem, Chu reflected on a moment that her young daughter was the target of racism from older teens.
"I'm very conscious since having a child, about what we say in front of a child, and what they pick up. What we say, even if it's casual or a joke... just be conscious that your three-year-old may pick it up and run with it," she explained.
"In a way, it doesn't surprise me but also completely shocked me when my kid got called a mongrel by older teenagers," she added. "Again, they must be picking it up from somewhere."
To listen to the full interview on The Jennifer Zamparelli show on 2FM, listen below: