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Irish general election: parties split over international and climate priorities

Sign for a polling station. The Irish general election on Friday 25th February will determine which parties will be held to their manifesto promises. Photo: Auntie P/Flickr.Is all politics local? With a general election looming on February 25th, Irish political parties appear as split on this issue as on many others, with some giving much more prominence to international concerns other than the fate of foreign creditors.

Given Ireland's financial predicament, one might expect the domestic economy to dominate party manifestoes published in advance of the 2011 election.

Yet, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party have all included international development as well as climate change pledges in their manifestoes.

Some specific policies and wording in their plans appears to have been in response to demands made by Irish development organisations.

However, the 2011 Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin election manifestoes are limited to domestic economic and political themes, although both contain green energy measures.

The People Before Profit manifesto contains no policies related to development, climate change or any non-domestic matter.

The Dóchas manifesto compared with party policies

On January 25, the umbrella agency for Irish development organisations, Dóchas produced a list of manifesto demands outlined below. Underneath each are related policies that have appeared in party manifestoes. Although the demands of Dóchas and others have been published at relatively short notice, several had been the subject of prior campaigning and lobbying.

Legislation to underpin Ireland's ODA commitments

Labour will introduce ODA funding legislation which will provide a framework to enhance the predictability, accountability and impact of Irish Aid, and is committed to meeting the 0.7% of GNP target in 2015. (While in opposition, the Irish Labour Party proposed legislation that mandated increasing levels of ODA as a precentage of GNI until Ireland's 0.7% target was met.)

The Green Party will ensure that Ireland will deliver on the commitment that our overseas development aid should reach 0.7% of GNP and will publish a plan of year-by-year increases to achieve this.

A comprehensive review of the 2006 Irish Aid White Paper to build a 2020 strategy

Fine Gael will review the implementation of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid.

Labour will review the 2006 Irish Aid White Paper to formulate objectives to 2020

An explicit rights-based approach to global development

Fine Gael will leverage its aid to encourage and support democratisation and human rights in the developing world. It will place a renewed focus on the Millennium Development Goals and support the fight against corruption.

Labour supports reform for a more ethical foreign policy.

The Green Party will seek that aid, as well as addressing basic human needs, should assist in developing democratic structures. The Green Party will, in government, and through the UN, the EU and other international fora, work to keep up pressure for change in Burma.

The enshrinement of humanitarian principles in policy and practice

No direct mention.

Specific reports on the implementation and impact of the commitment to focus 20% of ODA on hunger, and €100 million p.a. on HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases

No mention.

National legislation on climate change, including a commitment that any expenditure on addressing climate change will not come out of the ODA budget

Fine Gael will introduce climate change legislation with binding targets but only on the basis of all-party agreement.

Labour will pass its Climate Change Bill to set legally binding emissions targets.

The Green Party published the Climate Change Response Bill 2010. In government, it will prioritise the passage of this legislation.

Advocacy of EU and WTO trade rules that prioritise poverty eradication and sustainable development and enhance Ireland's support for fair trade, market access and 'Aid for Trade' initiatives

Fianna Fail will support a well-resourced Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2013.

Fine Gael will campaign for a good deal for Ireland under the CAP and will work with to avoid any damage to the (Irish) agricultural sector from future trade deals.

Labour will support efforts to ensure equity in trade regimes. Labour is also committed to strengthening policy coherence across a range of policies, including trade and climate change.

Sinn Féin will oppose any move at EU or WTO level that undermines the Irish food sector.

The Green Party will continue to support Fair Trade goods, including in Government purchasing policy.

Support of enhanced Financing for Development, including strengthening tax collection capacities; tackling illicit capital flight, particularly, corporate tax evasion and avoidance and promoting country-by-country financial reporting standards, and the cancellation of unsustainable and 'illegitimate debts'

Labour will support efforts to ensure equity in taxation and regarding international debt. Labour will back efforts at the UN to establish a Tobin Tax on international financial transactions to help generate funds to meet the MDGs (a demand made separately by Trócaire).

The Green Party will advocate for a financial transaction tax to fund the Millennium Development Goals.

Sinn Féin support a Tobin Tax but do not state in their manifesto what should be done with the revenues.

Strong advocacy at the EU level for principled overseas development and humanitarian assistance

Fine Gael wishes to join and influence a common EU security and defence system that will adhere to fundamental UN principles and commit to provide peacekeeping and peacemaking operations.

Labour will work to ensure that the EU takes the lead in climate change negotiations and introduces binding energy efficient targets by 2020. It will work at the EU level to ensure aid is transparent and targeted at achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will continue to engage in the development and operation of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Within the UN, it will press for the establishment of the principle of access to clean water and sanitation as a human rights in the upcoming review of the MDGs, and the establishment of a Rapid Response Agency for natural and human disasters.

Irish ODA allocation guidelines for bilateral, multilateral and civic society spending

Fine Gael will ensure stricter Irish Aid funding criteria and introduce a quality standard mark for aid delivery.

Strengthened parliamentary scrutiny of Ireland's development and humanitarian actions
Policies to ensure the continued and sustained quality of the Irish Aid program including a reversal of the relocation of Irish Aid to Limerick

The five main partys' manifestoes (though not People Before Profit's) propose governance and/or public sector reforms which may impact on the oversight and management of Irish Aid and humanitarian actions but none are specific to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Additional development-related manifesto commitments

Fine Gael:

  • will push for the EU to take a more active role in peacekeeping and talks relating to the Middle East peace process.
  • will establish an Irish Civilian Corps to assist developing countries.
  • will create a single humanitarian crises appeals mechanism for NGO fundraising and public response.
  • believes that Irish troops should be deployed, if requested, to assist in emergency relief efforts.
  • believes the 'triple lock' must be modified so that the failure of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution does not prevent Irish troops from taking part in EU humanitarian and overseas missions at short notice to assist in emergency relief efforts at times of humanitarian crises.
  • will negotiate a pragmatic approach in the EU to address the impact of volatility in commodity prices on producers.


  • will position Ireland (and Shannon airport) to become an international hub for humanitarian aid and personnel.
  • will ensure that the Defence Forces can meet Ireland's UN and EU peacekeeping obligations. Labour will enable the Irish Red Cross to be more effective and transparent.
  • will retain the 'triple lock', under which Irish defence forces can only participate in missions abroad with government approval, Dáil approval, and under a UN mandate.

The Green Party:

  • will reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to deliver on all eight UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
  • will include aid measures to combat the effects of climate change, which impact on developing countries hardest.
  • supports an independent Palestinian State, removal of the security wall and recognition of Israel's right to exist.

Additional policies impacting climate change

Fianna Fáil green economy policies include: the creation of a green IFSC; a National Retrofit Programme; an investment of €4.5 billion in transmission distribution and international interconnection agreements to develop renewable resources; developing Ireland as a Smart Grid technology centre; designing courses and training needed to deliver key green economy skills; publication of the Green Public Procurement Plan.

Other Fine Gael climate-related policies: investment in clean, green infrastructure; electric transport charging points; a reduction in proposed carbon taxes and an exception for agricultural diesel; increased funding for home energy retrofitting (expiring in 2013); a new State biomass company, Bioenergy & Forestry Ireland; afforestation; push for new Irish forest carbon sinks funding to be allowed in lieu of purchasing foreign carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Other Labour climate-related policies: high-level coordination of Ireland's domestic and international climate change policy; a National Retrofit Scheme to improve energy efficiency; minimum energy efficiency standards for property for sale or rent and new commercial property; fewer obstacles to renewable energy; position Ireland as a leading player in the global carbon market and in carbon management; policies to reduce fuel poverty (to counterbalance carbon taxes); a target of 350,000 electric cars by 2020; an initial target of 50% green public procurement.

Other Green party climate-related policies: 100,000 more green sector jobs; a focus on low-carbon high-value industries, with specific policies for Traded Creative Services, High-Tech Manufacturing and Financial Services; a National Retrofit Programme for 1 million homes; a roadmap for ocean and tidal energy; promotion of green tourism; afforestation; maximising the potential for forestry to contribute bioenergy; sustainable construction policies; an evaluation of alternatives to the carbon tax, such as Cap and Share; an increase in the fuel allowance; a strategy towards Ireland being oil free by 2030.

Sinn Féin will support initiatives to ensure Ireland becomes a world leader in green energy. Sinn Féin is committed to a publicly-owned national green technology firm to manage and use the Island's energy resources to make Ireland energy independent by 2020.

Emerging Markets

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin have different manifesto policies that relate to trade, investment, tourism and educational links with emerging and new markets. Labour focuses on India and other BRICs. No party specifies African markets.

Not in the manifesto

Though not listed here, the current Fianna Fáil-led government and the various political parties have made other statements and published policy documents in recent years related to several of the issues above.

In particular, Sinn Féin appears to have replied directly to Dóchas as follows:

  • “We remain committed to increasing aid spending to 0.7% of GNP by 2015 and would introduce legislation to underpin commitments to the State’s programme of official development assistance.”
  • “Sinn Féin is in complete agreement with many of the points proposed by Dóchas and indeed has campaigned on and endorsed these positions in the past. Although some of these may not be included in the text of the manifesto, they still firmly remain a part of our broader policy platform which we would bring forward in government.”
  • “We would review Ireland’s aid programme to ensure that it reflects, protects and fulfils our obligations under human rights treaties and conventions.”

Last week (on February 16), People Before Profit published a separate energy and natural resources policy document.

People Before Profit is part of the United Left Alliance (ULA), which does not appear to have a formal manifesto itself. However, the ULA has outlined its key demands, including a call for investment in renewable energy. Otherwise, it contains no policies relating to international development.

Campaign demands by other Irish charities

The demands of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition are consistent with those of Dóchas, and include a 2011 climate change law.

Comhlámh has outlined questions it wants voters to ask canvassing politicians with a focus on trade justice and lists a number of what it describes as other development and global justice issues with links to organisations that are highlighting them.

Concern has made an election leaflet with questions for candidates called “I’m Voicing My Concern”. It focuses on the Dóchas demands on aid levels, climate change and hunger.

Trócaire has separately published four manifesto demands broadly consistent with those of Dóchas, including support for a tax on international financial transactions to help fund the MDGs and a demand that human rights be central to all foreign policy. On its website, it also suggests that voters question politicians about the EU's free trade agreement with Israel.

Last Wednesday, Dochás published its own brief summary of each party's development policies.

Full 2011 General Election manifesto texts


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