The Parliament's debating chamber Photo: Diliff
The Parliament's debating chamber Photo: Diliff

MEP Election: Where do Dublin candidates stand on climate?

May 23rd, 2019

Nineteen candidates are vying for the four available MEP seats in the Dublin constituency following a period of campaigning, public debates and TV appearances.

Our Kayle Crosson gives her guide to where they stand on some of the key environmental and climate change issues in Ireland.


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

Sinn Fein – Lynn Boylan

Lynn Boylan is running to hold onto her current European Parliament seat and has previously worked as both an ecologist and activist. 

She has been a full member of the Parliament’s Environment Committee for the past five years and a negotiator on the EU Single Use Plastic Directive.

Boylan has repeatedly stated her opposition to a carbon tax, and said on Claire Byrne Live that “they don’t work” anywhere they have been tried elsewhere in the world.

In a recent piece for An Phoblacht, Boylan elaborated on her position, stating that a carbon tax discriminates against less well-off households, people living in rural areas and the “peripheries and people less access to resources”.

“It allows the rich to use their privilege to ‘change their behaviour’ and punishes ordinary people,” she added.

Boylan told TheJournal.ie that she wants to introduce deposit return schemes and increase renewables on the electricity grid up to 80 per cent by 2030.

Boylan is also a signatory to the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge, opposes GMOs and said at the Environmental Pillar hustings that she supports a tax on aviation.

Deputy Clare Daly, Independents4Change  Photo: Niall Sargent
Deputy Clare Daly, Independents4Change Photo: Niall Sargent

Independents4Change – Clare Daly

Dublin North TD Clare Daly is also vying for a Dublin MEP seat on behalf of Independents4Change and has signed the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge.

Daly told TheJournal.ie that a carbon tax that involves “slapping an extra €2 on a bale of briquettes” is unlikely to work in changing behaviour and that more radical action is needed.

She added that a carbon tax that loads all the cost on the “end-user” is “deeply-regressive”. She added: “I’m fully in favour of carbon taxes, but they have to be targeted in the right way.”

During a recent Claire Byrne Live debate, Daly expressed her support for an aviation fuel tax.

At the Environmental Pillars hustings, Daly relayed her Dail record saying that she was “a fierce critic” of the much-maligned Climate Change and Low-Carbon Development Bill, was “vehemently opposed to the Heritage Bill” and put down amendments to ban off-shore fracking.

She also later said that she would push for greater enforcement of EU Directives in place to protect wildlife, habitats and the environment more generally.

Ciaran Ciuffe, Green Party Photo: Niall Sargent
Ciaran Ciuffe, Green Party Photo: Niall Sargent

Green Party – Ciaran Cuffe

If elected, Dublin City Councillor Cuffe, amongst other pledges, wants to seek European Green Capital designation for Dublin and bring Dublin City Council homes from a D to an A energy rating so “that our tenants aren’t trapped in fuel poverty.”

Cuffe, a former TD and Junior Minister, co-chaired the committee that set up the Climate Change Action Plan 2019 – 2024 for Dublin City Council.

He also signed the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge and expressed his support for an aviation tax at the Environmental Pillar hustings.

Cuffe strongly advocates for investment in public transport, calling for 2:1 spending on public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure over road building.

On Claire Byrne Live, he also said that he would like to see the introduction of free public transport, starting with children. “I’d move onto reduced fairs, and eventually, make it free,” for all, he said.

Additionally, Cuffe said at the Environmental Pillar hustings that “market forces, as well as the state”, are needed in addressing climate change.

During the discussion, he also proposed allowing for the sale of surplus electricity generated by homes, business and farms back to the grid.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Cuffe expressed support for a carbon levy, but that it has to be coupled with “a carbon dividend” paid back to all households.

Alex White, Labour Photo: Niall Sargent

Labour – Alex White

Investment in public transport, incentivizing retrofitting, and building on the single-use plastics directives are all key cornerstones in White’s proposed policy positions.

The former Minister for Energy and Natural Resources describes himself as a “strong advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency” and has signed the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge.

During his time as Minister, White wrote the White Paper for Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015 – 2030.

While speaking on Claire Byrne Live, White was reminded of his previous support for the Corrib gas field and in response said, “but only in this context: we’re in a transition.”

During the Environmental Pillar hustings, White disagreed with other candidates on the role of capitalism in climate change, saying, “I don’t agree with anyone who thinks that we cannot confront climate change unless we overthrow capitalism.”

In relation to a carbon tax, White told TheJournal.ie that any increase in carbon tax should adhere to the polluter pays principle and ensure that major producers of carbon and other greenhouse gases are liable.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins,Photo: Niall Sargent
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins,Photo: Niall Sargent

Independent – Alice-Mary Higgins

Senator Alice Mary Higgins is contesting for the European elections as an Independent candidate.

Higgins has repeatedly stated that we are currently fighting the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity, and said at the Environmental Pillar hustings: “they’re linked and they need joint action, and the way we treat each has to compliment.”

When asked by TheJournal.ie on her position on a carbon tax, Higgins said, “Recognizing the brutal impacts of climate change means putting a higher price on carbon and redirecting any money gathered into mitigation, adaptation, and supports to vulnerable groups.”

As a signatory to the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge, Higgins is opposed to oil exploration licences.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, she also expressed her opposition to the building of Liquified Natural Gas terminals.

During the Claire Byrne Live debate, Higgins referred to a vote she cast in favour of a 2:1 spend on public transport and during the Environmental Pillar hustings reiterated her opposition to the controversial Heritage Bill and support for stronger enforcement on environmental issues.

Mark Durkan, Fine Gael Photo: Niall Sargent
Mark Durkan, Fine Gael Photo: Niall Sargent

Fine Gael – Frances Fitzgerald and Mark Durkan

Two Fine Gael candidates are in the running, both with seasoned political backgrounds.

Former Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is currently on track to win the largest share of votes with 22 per cent, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll.

Fitzgerald has expressed her support for a “just transition of meeting our climate changes targets” for Dublin, and on Claire Byrne Live, stressed that dealing with climate change effectively is about partnership, which includes, “working with business”.

On the weekly political broadcast, Fitzgerald also defended the government’s granting of oil exploration licences, finding that the alternative of imported gas from Russia was “not very climate friendly.”

In relation to a carbon tax, Fitzgerald told the TheJournal.ie recently that there is “potential” in increasing carbon tax, but that it would have to work alongside other political measures.

For those who are unable to pay, who are displaced, she continues, or may, “lose their job due to shifts in the way our societies operate as a consequence of climate change”, a Just Transition Fund should be in place.

Mark Durkan, the former leader of Northern Ireland’s SDLP, and former Westminster MP, said at the recent Environmental Pillar hustings that he has been involved in a number of environmental party groups.

“We need to make sure in the next European Parliament that action on climate change and the nature crisis is an absolute driving priority in all that we do,” Durkan said in his opening statement at the environmental debate.

Durkan recognized the existence of a climate and “nature crisis” at the event, and added that, “a lot of what we’ve said about targets is going to have to be revised and supplemented on that basis.”

Addressing the issue of a carbon tax, he told TheJournal.ie that he agrees with the principle of it and said: “we need a carbon tax regime that doesn’t just tax the consumer but obviously it’s a proper carbon tax levy at the different stages of economic behaviour.”

Durkan says that he is also opposed to fracking, and that he will strongly support the implementation of new European laws on single use plastics and advocate for policy linked into the Sustainable Development Goals.

Barry Andrews, Fianna Fail Photo: Niall Sargent

Fianna Fail – Barry Andrews

The former Dun Laoighaire TD and Minister of State has said that “the threat of climate change towers over all other issues” and that the absence of sectoral targets in the Government’s National Mitigation Plan is a “critical failing” that ensures there is little chance of Ireland meeting its climate obligations.

Speaking at the RTE Claire Byrne Live debate this week, he expressed his support for the proposed second runway at Dublin airport as “we’re a small global trading economy and we need access to a second runway”.

On carbon tax, Andrews told the TheJournal.ie that Fianna Fail supported a “comprehensive suite of measures on climate change” which includes an increase in carbon tax. On his candidate website, he also says he will campaign for “an increase in carbon tax to 2030 rising to €80 per tonne”.

On his website, he also states that he will campaign for investment in home retrofitting, electrification of Dublin’s public transport system using green energy, and cycling for all campaign.

Gary Gannon Photo: Niall Sargent

Social Democrats – Gary Gannon

Gannon said during the Environmental Pillar hustings that “the manner in which we’re importing food into supermarkets” is threatening small-based farmers and is “simply not sustainable moving forward.”

He also later said that the reaction to climate change has to “be about investment in public services” and “confronting the small minority of people who’ve benefitted substantially from impact upon on our environment.”

Gannon has also signed onto the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge.

During the Claire Byrne Live debate, Gannon also found that there was a “huge opportunity” in ocean-generated energy.

On carbon tax, Gannon told TheJournal.ie that a carbon tax has a “role to play in a transition to a low-carbon, energy efficient economy”.

“However, we need to be clear that any carbon tax must be progressive, and not an undue burden on those in poverty or at risk of poverty,” he added.

Eliis Ryan Photo: Niall Sargent

Worker’s Party – Eilis Ryan

The Worker’s Party Eilis Ryan will also be contesting for a Dublin MEP seat, and she currently sits on Dublin City Council.

Central to fighting climate change, Eilis argued during the Environmental Pillar hustings, is the state playing, “a much bigger role in our economy than it currently does” and finds that “capitalism is destroying the planet”.

Ryan wants to see Europe-wide regulations that would outlaw the use of non-recyclable packing materials.

She is also signed onto the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge and is opposed to increases in carbon tax.

 She has also expressed her support for an aviation tax on the grounds that “people at the top pay more”.

Gillian Brien, People Before Profit Photo: Niall Sargent

People Before Profit – Gillian Brien

Brien supports her party’s Climate Emergency Measures Bill to limit the issuing of new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

During the Environmental Pillar hustings, Brien expressed her support of an aviation tax, sustainable food production and a pesticides ban.

Brien has also signed onto Not Here Not Anywhere’s Fossil Free Election Pledge.

Solidarity – Rita Harrold

Socialist feminist candidate Rita Harrold is seeking the Dublin MEP seat on behalf of the Solidarity Party.

Harrold is opposed to a carbon tax, saying on Claire Byrne Live that a carbon tax is “is completely unrealistic” and told TheJournal.ie that such a tax would “place the burden onto the backs of working people.”

She has signed the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election pledge and supports a rapid just transition to a zero carbon economy.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Harrold also said that “we need massive public investment in wind, wave and renewable energy. Public transport should be expanded and made free of charge for all.”

Remaining Candidates

Independent Aisling McNiffe has signed the Not Here Not Anywhere Fossil Free Election Pledge.

Herman Kelly of the Irish Freedom Party says he is committed to working for a “greener Ireland” and opposes the implementation of a carbon tax.

The remaining independent candidates – Eamonn Murphy, Gemma O’Doherty, Ben Gilroy, Mark Mullan, and Tony Bosco Lowth – do not appear to have laid out definitive climate policies.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.

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