Assessment of Irish MEPs’ attitudes to climate actions reveals ‘shocking apathy’

Mairead McGuinness rejects CAN study for its ‘limited analysis and quirky labelling’

Irish MEPs have been accused of “shocking apathy” towards EU climate actions following an analysis by an environmental group of voting patterns on major European Parliament legislation.

In an assessment by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Sinn Féin is listed as the best performer from Ireland, though it achieves less than half the possible points available on the report's ranking scale. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are classified in the worst category based on votes relating to climate and energy.

“The findings confirm the alarmingly isolationist position of Irish politicians when it comes to climate action in comparison to other western European countries,” CAN Europe says.

Political parties are given scores out of 100 and divided into three categories: defenders of climate action; delayers of climate action or “dinosaurs who don’t see the need for action against climate change”.

MEPs are ranked in 21 votes for tackling climate change including making emissions trading more effective, reporting on fossil fuel subsidies, increasing climate change effort-sharing measures, and higher energy-efficiency targets.

Fine Gael scores 20.8 per cent, putting it in the dinosaur category under the European People's Party banner. Fianna Fáil scores zero as the party's only MEP Brian Crowley failed to vote in the parliament session for health reasons. Sinn Féin scores 48.7 per cent, putting it in the delayers category. This ranking is in a category below the party's own European United Left/Nordic Green Left political grouping.

‘Laggard’ commission

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said CAN Europe’s report measured ambition “only within the confines of what has been proposed by the laggard European Commission”.

She defended her vote record, and as spokeswoman for climate action for the Left group, which had consistently advocated “radically better climate policies and much higher ambition”.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said CAN Europe engaged in “limited analysis, and quirky labelling of individuals and parties is being used to paint some as climate saints and others as climate sinners”.

Such polarisation would do little to effect the changes necessary in society to deal with climate change, “be that in transport, agriculture, construction or energy. In fact, finger-pointing at people or sectors is doing harm,” she said.

She said the report did not consider other complex and vital pieces of climate-related legislation including energy-efficiency of buildings or emissions from heavy-duty vehicles backed by her party.

Fianna Fáil cited particular circumstances in relation to Mr Crowley. It has “five European Parliament candidates all of whom are dedicated in promoting the need to protect our planet from the consequences of climate change and would support climate actions in Brussels”, a spokesman said.

‘Political greenwashing’

However, Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan said Irish MEPs were not living up to what they were saying on climate change. “This report shows how Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have delayed and blocked climate action over the last five years.”

It also “lays bare the truth behind Ireland’s political greenwashing. They’re jumping on the bandwagon in the public eye, being seen to show their support to the climate strikers and a general public who care deeply about their future,” said Ms O’Sullivan who is standing in the European elections in Ireland South constituency.

The Environmental Pillar (EP), a coalition of 29 Irish environmental organisations, said it was vital that citizens voiced their concerns to MEP candidates over climate change and biodiversity loss. The need was even more pressing, it added, following the release of the CAN Europe report "calling out Ireland's largest parties for their shocking apathy towards EU climate action".

The EP is hosting climate hustings over coming weeks for candidates to set out their commitments to potential voters. Public debates take place in Carrick on Shannon on April 26th; Dublin on May 3rd; and Cork on May 10th, at which voters will be able to gauge where candidates stand on key environmental and climate issues. More information available at

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times