Liadh Ní Riada Photo: NIall Sargent

MEP Election: Where do Cork candidates stand on climate?

The Ireland South constituency sees 23 candidates contending for five seats in the European Parliament. Shamim Malekmian looks at some of the candidates’ stances on climate change and biodiversity.


Grace O’Sullivan Photo: Niall Sargent

Grace O’Sullivan (The Green Party)

Ireland’s first female lifeguard, surfing champion, ocean enthusiast and Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, has focused her campaign on progressive environmental policies.

Ms O’Sullivan – who worked with Greenpeace for two decades in her early 20s – has been a vocal critic of the Government’s environmental position since she was first elected to the Seanad in 2014.

Boosting the society’s health by improving the health of our planet through bolstering conservational measures for nature, water and air, is at the heart of Ms O’Sullivan’s environmental policies.

Ms O’Sullivan has criticised the performance of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at the European Parliament over what she believed amounted to blocking and delaying a progressive climate action plan.

The Green Party Senator believes that the State must revise Ireland’s 2040 plan to include more progressive environmental policies. 

Issues including protecting marine areas, illegal tree felling, the loss of Ireland’s wildlife species, animal cruelty and plastic pollution are issue that Ms O’Sullivan has expressed an interest in tackling.

Liadh Ní Riada Photo: NIall Sargent

Liadh Ní Riada (Sinn Féin):

Sinn Féin’s sitting MEP Liadh Ní Riada, who also competed in the race for Áras last year, has a history of lending her voice to environmental campaigns, especially when it comes ecological issues impacting her native county of Cork.

Ms Ní Riada has been supportive of citizen campaigns against projects with adverse ecological impact, including the proposed construction of a plastic factory in West Cork, Skibbereen as well as incinerators in Cork Harbour and Limerick.

Fighting climate change by devising a more radical policy plan and setting more progressive targets appears to be among Ms Ní Riada’s central policies for curtailing climate change.

She has raised the issue of tree felling in the EU Parliament and backs the idea of a “Green New Deal” as an advanced environmental roadmap for Europe.

Earlier in April, Ms Ní Riada hosted a climate change seminar in Cork, inviting Cork’s most prominent teenage, environmental campaigner Saoi O’Connor to share her concerns.

The Sinn Féin politician has also criticised her Fine Gael counterparts in the EU parliament, accusing them of “hypocrisy” when it comes to adopting a more radical climate strategy.

Speaking to The Green News during Sinn Féin’s climate seminar in Cork, Ms Ní Riada accused Fine Gael’s politicians of backing the fossil fuel industry while sympathising with young climate change protestors. 

“The idea seems to be that let’s pay the big corporate polluters to carry on business as usual, but then express support for climate action,” she said.

Sinn Fein is opposed to any increases in carbon tax without protection for low and middle-income earners being first put in place.

Seán Kelly (Fine Gael):

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly has voiced his support for Irish teenage climate strikers, albeit opposition parties have questioned his party’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Earlier in March, Fine Gael MEPs were accused of undermining the EU’s climate ambition after voting down critical amendments to the EU’s new climate action strategy.

Those amendments included a 100 per cent renewable energy scenario in the EU commission’s roadmap to 2050, increasing the 2030 emissions reduction target and the adoption of the fight against global warming as one of the EU’s fundamental values.

In a statement to The Green News, Mr Kelly said that, while he is “strongly in favour of ambitious efforts” to tackle climate change, now is not the appropriate time to “revise the ambition levels for 2030”.

Mr Kelly, however, has helped to negotiate an increase in the EU’s renewable energy targets from 27 per cent to 30, calling the previous goal “outdated”.

An anti-plastic position also shapes Mr Kelly’s environmental policy, with the Fine Gael politician hosting a public meeting about the issue last year. 

Mr Kelly is a vocal supporter of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant proposed for the Shannon Estuary, a project which opponents argue could involve the important of fracked gas into Ireland.

Mick Wallace Photo: Niall Sargent

Mick Wallace TD (Independents4Change):

Independents4Change TD, Mick Wallace’s attitude toward environmental issues has been reflected through his strong opposition against large-scale projects with adverse ecological consequences.

Most recently, Mr Wallace questioned the planning authority’s decision to extend planning permission for the LNG terminal in Co Kerry due to the project’s potential negative impact on Shannon Estuary and its marine species.

Mr Wallace has been outspoken in his support for increased State funding for the renewable energy sector, questioning the logic behind greenlighting fossil fuel projects initiated by large, private companies.

Mr Wallace also seeks to decrease the beef and dairy herd and backs the idea of “diversifying farming output” to curtail carbon emissions, as part of his climate-change-curtailing policies.

Diarmuid O’Flynn Photo: Niall Sargent

Diarmuid O’Flynn (Independent):

The Irish Examiner‘s former Chief Hurling Correspondent and the founder of an important, Cork-based, anti-bailout group called Ballyhea says No, Diarmuid O’Flynn, has also identified climate change as a significant bane of our age.

Mr O’Flynn, who has been serving as an assistant to Independent MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan since 2014, is against increasing Ireland’s carbon tax, arguing that it would be unfair to low-income populations. Instead, Mr O’Flynn is advocating for hefty fines for polluting industries or what is known as the “polluter pays” principle.

The Independent politician also supports the growth of the renewable energy sector, creating green jobs, reducing our national cattle herd in favour of the environment as well as more investment in mixed agriculture practices.

Adrienne Wallace Photo: Niall Sargent

Adrienne Wallace (People Before Profit/Solidarity):

One of the youngest candidates of this year’s election, 28-year-old Adrienne Wallace, has promised to fight to shelter “the most vulnerable communities” from the detrimental impact of climate change.

Increasing investment in renewable energy “for nationwide retrofitting”, boosting support for local, green businesses, reducing Ireland’s carbon footprint and improving water infrastructure are among Ms Wallace’s environmental promises.

The Carlow-based politician has also promised to work toward making her hometown an eco-friendly, green region.

About the Author

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.

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