European candidates promise changes in human rights and environment

List drawn up by three NGOs includes pledge to address child poverty across Europe

Fine Gael’s Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes said last night there was a need for a new direction in the wake of the financial crisis to which Europe had been too slow to respond. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Fine Gael’s Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes said last night there was a need for a new direction in the wake of the financial crisis to which Europe had been too slow to respond. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Eight of Dublin’s European election candidates have committed themselves to a five part pledge dealing with a range of issues including child poverty, development aid and climate change should they be elected to one of the three available constituency seats.

The document was drawn up by a trio of Trocaire, St Vincent de Paul and Social Justice Ireland and was debated at an event in Dublin last night.

All of the candidates agreed with the values of the five-point policy but stuck to key differences in political approach while outlining their positions.

The list included a pledge to address child and intergenerational poverty across Europe by supporting the European Commission recommendation titled “Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage”.

There was also a commitment to fulfil obligations under poverty and social inclusion; reaching 0.7 per cent in overseas development aid; ensuring greater transparency and accountability of European companies operating in developing countries, and to ensure the EU progresses with environmental and climate change policies.

Addressing the audience, Fine Gael’s Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes said there was a need for a new direction in the wake of the financial crisis to which Europe had been too slow to respond.

But he added: “Even now after the crash, after the appalling crisis that the people have gone through, the crisis that this Republic has gone through, we still have 25 per cent more on average than the average income across the European Union.

“What that says is, having come through this crisis we are still a rich country.”

He noted that average incomes are twice what they are in Portugal and three times that of Greece.

That viewpoint was unlikely to sit well with others who clung to the message of social inequality.

Eager to confront the cliché of broken political promises at election time, People Before Profit councillor Bríd Smith said that while it would be remiss of any candidate to disagree with the pledge, in reality politicians could not expect to be bound by them.

The only one of the seven speakers to address that reality, she said: “Obviously I think it would be very hard and very stupid really to run for election and not to support all these demands because they are quite sensible and popular.

“The question I would like to ask you is...how you see holding any of us who stood up here tonight to that commitment and how we can implement that commitment because it is easy to say things.

“It is a big question for us all, how do we hold to it.”

Other speakers on the night were Eamon Ryan (Greens), Damon Matthew Wise (Independent), Nessa Childers (Independent), Mary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fail), Paul Murphy (Socialist) and Emer Costello (Labour). Sinn Féin candidate Lynn Boylan had a prior engagement.