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Ireland: coalition partners compromise on climate change, aid

Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny and Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore. Original photos: Flickr/infomatique.Following the February general election, Ireland's Fine Gael and Labour parties agreed Sunday (March 7) to form a "Government for National Recovery". They have published their Programme for Government.

The joint document prioritises the "economic emergency" facing the country but it also contains a number of significant policies on climate change and international development. Many of these are compromises on their manifesto positions, while a number of pledges were simply left out. Both parties were under pressure to rapidly conclude an agreement.

The 2011-2016 Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government*

Policies that survived mostly intact in the Programme from Fine Gael (FG) or Labour (L) manifestoes

Humanitarian and development assistance

  • FG: will create a single humanitarian crises appeals mechanism for NGO fundraising and public response.  
  • L: will position Ireland, in particular Shannon airport, to become an international hub for the storage and distribution of emergency humanitarian supplies.
  • FG: will establish an Irish Civilian Corps to assist developing countries.  
  • L: will initiate a detailed legal review of the basis, structures and governance of the Red Cross in Ireland to improve its functioning.

Climate Change

  • FG: will merge together Bord na Mona and Coillte to create a new State company called BioEnergy Ireland to become a global leader in the commercialisation of next generation bio-energy technologies, including an annual 14,700 hectare afforestation programme.  
  • L: will seek to establish Ireland as a renewable manufacturing hub to attract international and domestic investment. We will also position Ireland as a leading player in the global carbon market, and a centre of excellence in the management of carbon.
  • L: will facilitate the development of energy co-operatives to make it easier for smallscale renewable energy providers to contribute to our renewables target.
  • FG: will tender for a ‘pay as you save’ contract to insulate all public buildings in the state, where the contractor provides the capital.  
  • L: will further improve energy efficiency for new buildings, with a view to moving towards zero carbon homes in the longer term. All new commercial buildings will be required to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
  • FG: will double funding for home energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes until the end of 2013. After 2013, we will roll out a ‘pay as you save’ scheme to continue home energy efficiency retrofitting work without recourse to public funding.  

Compromises in the Programme (PG)

These three policy areas also featured in demands made by Irish charities. Their other demands were unaddressed.

Overseas Development Assistance funding

Climate Change Bill

  • PG: will publish a Climate Change Bill which will provide certainty surrounding government policy and provide a clear pathway for emissions reductions, in line with negotiated EU 2020 targets.
  • FG: will introduce climate change legislation with binding targets but only on the basis of all-party agreement.
  • L: will pass its Climate Change Bill to set legally binding emissions targets and will work to ensure that the EU takes the lead in climate change negotiations and introduces binding energy efficient targets by 2020.

White Paper on Irish Aid

  • PG, FG: will review the implementation of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid.
  • L: will review the 2006 Irish Aid White Paper to formulate objectives to 2020..

International development-related manifesto promises that do not feature in the Programme*

Fine Gael:

  • will ensure stricter Irish Aid funding criteria and introduce a quality standard mark for aid delivery.
  • will leverage its aid to encourage and support democratisation and human rights in the developing world. It will place a renewed focus on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and support the fight against corruption.
  • 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.
  • will push for the EU to take a more active role in peacekeeping and talks relating to the Middle East peace process.
  • 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.


  • supports reform for a more ethical foreign policy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • will work at the EU level to ensure aid is transparent and targeted at achieving the 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.
  • 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.


Outline of climate and development promises in all the 2011 election manifestoes


Full 2011 General Election manifesto texts

*Some of the statements above have been paraphrased. Please refer to the original documents for the exact wordings and for additional policy proposals.

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