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Ireland: Fine Gael and Labour differ on climate change, aid and Irish troops

Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny and Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore. Original photos: Flickr/infomatique.Fine Gael and Labour may clash over climate change, aid legislation and the 'triple lock'. The two parties are in discussions over a draft programme for government, should they decide to form a governing coalition.

The parties won 113 of 166 seats, making them the two largest parties. Both made substantial manifesto promises in a range of policy areas that will now compete to make it into the draft programme. Fine Gael took about twice as many seats as Labour so will be expecting to see more of its policies included should agreement be reached.

In their manifestos, both parties gave prominence to international concerns other than the fate of foreign creditors, such as pledges on international development and climate change. These now provide a guide to the likely composition of any joint programme.

Both parties have made innovative proposals but there are areas of disagreement: Labour seeks Official Development Assistance (ODA) legislation and Climate Change legislation without seeking all-party support, while Fine Gael seeks to remove Ireland's 'triple lock' to facilitate faster emergency relief.

NGOs are lobbying to influence the content of any agreement that might be made this week, following their prior efforts to influence the party manifestos.

Here is an outline of key manifesto promises:

Fine Gael:

  • will ensure stricter Irish Aid funding criteria and introduce a quality standard mark for aid delivery.
  • will review the implementation of the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid.
  • 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.
  • will introduce climate change legislation with binding targets but only on the basis of all-party agreement.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.


  • 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.)
  • will review the 2006 Irish Aid White Paper to formulate objectives to 2020.
  • supports reform for a more ethical foreign policy.
  • will pass its Climate Change Bill to set legally binding emissions targets.
  • 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 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 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 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.

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.

Full 2011 General Election manifesto texts


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