Dublin European Parliament candidates agree climate change is key election issue

Rise of far right and freedom of speech also raised as important issues

European candidates for the Dublin constituency, from left:  Lynn Boylan MEP (Sinn Féin), Clare Daly TD (Independents4Change), Alex White (Labour), Ciarán Cuffe (Green Party), Barry Andrews (Fianna Fáil) during an election debate organised by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

European candidates for the Dublin constituency, from left: Lynn Boylan MEP (Sinn Féin), Clare Daly TD (Independents4Change), Alex White (Labour), Ciarán Cuffe (Green Party), Barry Andrews (Fianna Fáil) during an election debate organised by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Dublin candidates from across the political spectrum in the European elections have flagged climate change as one of the key parliamentary issues for the EU in the coming years.

The rise of the far right, the impact of Brexit, inequality, freedom of speech, a lack of transparency within European institutions and the future fabric of the union were also highlighted as part of an election debate held by the Association of European Journalists.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews, Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan, Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe, Independents4Change’s Clare Daly, Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald and Labour’s Alex White joined broadcaster Eileen Dunne to discuss the key aspects of their campaigns with all contestants including the climate challenge as a primary component.

If we are to realistically face up to the challenge of climate change it can’t be business as usual, said Mr Cuffe. “We don’t need a revolution but we do need radical change. Instead of promoting beef we need to move towards biomass, instead of promoting oil and coal we need to promote wind.”

Ms Boylan underlined the need for greater supports to allow farmers to “diversity” and “move away from the industrial style farm”. It’s an incredible situation where we’re declaring a climate emergency but if you wanted to be an organic farmer in the morning you cannot do that . . . we should be encouraging farmers to go down the road of being sustainable.”

Ms Daly noted that while Ireland had declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, the State remained “the second worst country in terms of climate action”.

For Mr White, the adverse impact of carbon taxation measures on the most vulnerable must be addressed and rebalanced. “Politicians should show leadership and not just pretend that these things can be done in a manner where there’s no cost to anyone. We can’t do that, it’s too late.”

The Labour candidate also highlighted the importance of protecting “reliable, factual, investigative” journalism while upholding freedom of speech in the age of social media.

Warning that at least a third of the next European Parliament could be made up of “euro-sceptical members”, Mr Andrews underlined the threats facing the future of the European project. Ireland’s influence within the union could also be under threat in a post-Brexit European Parliament without our natural UK ally, he said, adding that research from VoteWatch Europe found Ireland’s latest MEP delegation to be “among the least influential of any member state during the last session of the EP in 2017”.

With Europe facing a “dangerous crossroads”, Ms Daly’s said her decision to run in the elections was driven by record inequality, the erosion of public services, the casualisation of labour and “access to expenditure for militarism and border controls”.

Ms Boylan agreed that the EU was “in crisis” and that “centrist politics have failed at the heart of the EU”.

While Ms Fitzgerald noted climate challenges as important, she underlined the impact of Brexit as her key priority in protecting the needs of Irish people. She would also focus on making Dublin “a liveable city” and promoting equality rights on a European stage.

A sense of national apathy towards affairs discussed within the European Parliament was raised, with Mr Cuffe warning of a “huge disconnect between what goes on in Brussels and in Strasbourg and the changes that occur in people’s lives. We need to say that Europe is really important.”

All candidates also agreed that the media has failed to encourage national engagement with EU affairs through lack of coverage from the European Parliament. The Irish media also has a role to play in properly educating the Irish people of the full impact of climate change, they said.

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll published this week shows Ms Fitzgerald is currently on course to top the poll at 22 per cent in a fortnight, followed by Mr Andrews on 18 per cent. Ms Boylan polled at 13 per cent, Ms Daly at 10 per cent, Mr Cuffe at 9 per cent and Mr White at 8 per cent.