Photo: William Murphy https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/41307252404

Where do the Dublin Bay South candidates stand on climate & biodiversity?

8 July 2021 

After weeks of campaigning and coverage, voters of the Dublin Bay South constituency are heading to the polls today. 

Housing, the ongoing pandemic and its rippled-out effects have been issues right at the forefront over the past few weeks. 

We wanted to dig a little deeper and see where some of the candidates stood on another parallel crisis – the climate and biodiversity emergency. 

We reached out, we read up – and here’s what we came back with. 

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James Geoghegan – Fine Gael 

The frontrunner for first preference votes according to the Irish Times poll, James Geoghegan is a Dublin City Councillor and is fighting for Fine Gael to retain the seat Eoghan Murphy previously held in the constituency. 

In a statement to The Green News, Cllr Geoghegan said that his party had been “committed to meeting our climate responsibilities throughout our time in Government” by issuing the 2019 Climate Action Plan, through commitments in the Programme for Government and most recently by publishing the Climate Bill. 

The Bill would lay the legislative framework for reducing Ireland’s emissions by 51 per cent over the next decade. However, while many have lauded it as ambitious, experts and campaigners have warned it is not sufficient to meet the crisis at hand. 

In terms of specific policy, he said that he’d like to see Dublin become a 15-minute city, an idea originally brought forward by Carlos Moreno. 

The concept has recently taken off in Paris and it ensures workplaces, education centres and community amenities are all within a 15-minute walk or cycle of your residence. 

When it comes to the biodiversity crisis, Cllr Geoghegan says the National Biodiversity Action Plan must continue to be implemented and commitments should be built on from the first National Biodiversity Conference. 

Ivana Bacik – Labour 

Coming in close behind Cllr Geoghegan in the polls is Ivana Bacik, a seasoned Labour politician who currently holds a seat in the Seanad. 

Senator Bacik introduced the first-ever climate legislation into the upper chamber back in 2007 and told The Green News that she has a “deep commitment to this vital policy area.” 

She also noted that the Climate Bill is “in general, a positive step and it deserves support.” 

“During the debate I urged that the targets outlined in the legislation do not become the upper limit of our ambition. If anything we should aim to do more,” she added. 

In terms of specific measures, Senator Bacik supports actions such as a major retrofitting of housing across the country, investment in Bord na Mona, ESB and Coillte so that they become “engines of the green economy” and “positive forces in the delivery of a Just Transition.” 

She would also like to see investment in public transport and infrastructure as well as a sustainable approach to marine planning and development. 

On the biodiversity front, she said she supports, “an end to cutting on raised bogs, promotion of responsible mowing and planting practices by local authorities across the country and retention of hedgerows.” 

In terms of her party’s approach to the climate crisis, Labour have produced a Climate Justice Manifesto that they say is one of their five policy commitments at the core of any agreement with other parties. 

MEP Lynn Boylan, Sinn Fein at Environmental Pillar hustings, May 2019 Photo: NIall Sargent
MEP Lynn Boylan, Sinn Fein at Environmental Pillar hustings, May 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

Lynn Boylan – Sinn Fein 

A former Member of the European Parliament and ecologist, Sinn Fein Senator Lynn Boylan would seek a significant ratcheting up of climate ambition if elected to the Dáil. 

Senator Boylan currently sits on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and helped “strengthen the Climate Bill through pre-legislative scrutiny,” she told The Green News. 

She has also been a long-standing advocate for the Bill to have provisions on Just Transition and climate justice, which campaigners have repeatedly warned need to be fully integrated into the legislation. 

Her proposals around climate justice echo the party’s 2019 climate justice policy which aims to see the emergency addressed through a lens of “climate justice and a Just Transition.” 

Senator Boylan also wants to see the cost of energy for homes decline and reform of the PSO levy so that data centres are paying “their fair share towards subsidising the renewable energy coming on stream.” 

She is also advocating for Ireland to change its position on the Energy Charter Treaty to support the French call for withdrawing from it altogether. 

Experts warn the treaty could seriously hamper the much-needed energy transition to renewables as it would hinder countries through company-led compensation claims. 

“The Biodiversity Data Centre needs to be put on a more secure footing so their expertise can be retained and the National Parks and Wildlife Service should be put on statutory footing so that they’ll be able to take action on wildlife crime,” Senator Boylan added. 

Deirdre Conroy – Fianna Fáil 

Local Fianna Fail Councillor Deirdre Conroy is Fianna Fáil’s candidate for the seat, and said that as a heritage and environmental specialist, she is concerned about local environmental matters such as traffic congestions in the area. 

She pointed to her party’s performance in Government as evidence that they believe “climate change is one of the defining challenges that this Government faces.” 

The Climate Bill legislation introduced by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party will “hardwire our climate ambitions into law and it lays the foundation of a path towards an Ireland that is climate resilient, environmentally sustainable and rich in biodiversity,” she added. 

“If elected, I will work to ensure that Government delivers on its annual targets for emissions reductions, that the most vulnerable people in society are protected as we transition towards more sustainable ways of living, and that the carbon budgets for each sector of our economy our allocated fairly,” she said in a statement to The Green News. 

Official party policy on addressing climate change include measures such as waste reduction, making electric vehicles the norm, driving down energy costs, establishing a green deal agency, and improving public transport. 

Campaigners from Climate Case Ireland present Cllr Claire Byrne with a letter before the Department of Climate Action June 2021 photo: Kayle Crosson

Claire Byrne – the Green Party 

Local Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne is vying for the seat in her party leader’s own constituency and told The Green News that “working on environmental issues has been something I have been doing all of my career.” 

Cllr Byrne is an environmental scientist and previously worked as a sustainability consultant and says what is crucial for the next term of Government is holding the coalition “to some of the key commitments in the Programme for Government.” 

“Adding a strong voice inside Government for increased climate ambition is the most effective thing voters in Dublin Bay South can do,” she told The Green News. 

She also stressed that the biodiversity and climate crisis are “inextricably linked” and that “increasing our biodiversity and lowering our impact is a key solution to the climate crisis.” 

A Citizen’s Assembly on biodiversity would be “essential” for building public buy-in for increasing biodiversity across the country, and would be “the bedrock of a major increase in ambition on conservation and giving nature to space to re-establish”, according to Cllr Byrne. 

In terms of specific policy, she would back a major increase in funding to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and a strengthening of the environmental NGO sector to “protect it from those who want to defund it.” 

Cllr Byrne would also like to see High Nature Value Farming supported through the Government and the Common Agricultural Policy, a plan to retrofit social housing and private homes brought forward at scale and support for the existing taskforce on water quality in Dublin Bay being supported. 

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Sarah Durcan – Social Democrats 

The Social Democrats candidate Sarah Durcan for the Dublin Bay South seat has primarily worked in the arts and community activism and is currently employed at Science Gallery International. 

“From a personal viewpoint, I believe that inequality and climate/biodiversity breakdown are the greatest challenges we face, and we can’t deal with one without dealing with the other,” she told The Green News. 

The party has been vocal in its criticism of the Climate Bill, stressing that its target of net zero emissions by 2050 is “simply too late, out of step with the scientific advice and far short of our fair share of the global effort needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement.”

If in power, the party would pursue policies such as establishing a Just Transition Task Force, phasing out fossil fuels and implementing a frontloaded “pay as you save” national retrofitting programme. 

Ms. Durcan identified a number of local issues for the constituency when it came to environmental issues, particularly in relation to transport, biodiversity and air and water quality. 

Addressing these problems, she added, would include actions such as reducing emissions, having better water treatment facilities, reducing waste going into Dublin Bay and rewilding. 

Brigid Purcell – People Before Profit 

People Before Profit’s candidate Brigid Purcell has long-standing experience in the service industry and said in her candidate statement that she is “a regular person. I am a young woman, a woefully underrepresented demographic in the Dáil.” 

She has been campaigning around cleaning up Dublin Bay due to the ongoing waste management problems with Ringsend water treatment plant. 

“We want to immediately start investing in a second treatment plant [for the constituency] because the treatment plant we have at the moment simply can’t handle the amount of waste. So we need a second one and we need that immediately because Irish Water’s solution is to wait until 2025,” she told The Green News. 

She also stressed that “the individual isn’t responsible for climate change, it is the system of capitalism that is the cause.” 

Ms. Purcell is also extremely critical of the absence of the dairy herd being mentioned in the Climate Bill, and added that “we know that dairy is one of biggest contributors of greenhouse gases. It needs to be taken seriously. We don’t have time to be messing around.” 

Banning imported Liquified Natural Gas and taking a “seriously taking a look and considering banning data centres” are also two cornerstones to her position on the climate crisis. 

“Ultimately, we need to be taking this crisis very seriously, and we’re not. We need to make mass changes and if that means straying from the neo-liberal idea of greenwashing things – we have to throw that out because we just don’t have time,” she said. 

Story by Kayle Crosson, Shauna Burdis, Thomas Hamilton and Sam Starkey.