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We read local election manifestos so you don't have to: Here's what the 3 big parties promise

Here’s an overview of what Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin say they will do at a local level.

WITH ONE DAY until we go to the polls in the local and European elections, here’s a handy look at how the three largest parties at local government level have set out their stalls. 

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have all published manifestos laying out their promises, vision and ambitions for local authorities. 

Each of the three is similar in length at approximately 30 pages each, with half of Sinn Fein’s one being in Irish. 

The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil opted for similar slogans in their leader’s message in the manifestos. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris went for: “Working with you. Working for you.”

While Tánaiste Micheál Martin chose: “Delivering for Ireland, Delivering for You.”

Sinn Féin passed on including a message from party leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Here’s a look at the standouts from each 

Between promises to return waste collection to public ownership (Sinn Féin), make Culture Night a quarterly event (Fianna Fáil) and place bees on the roofs of local authority-owned buildings where practical (Fine Gael), there’s a variety of different focuses from each of the parties.

Fianna Fáil has been the most specific with its promises in a lot of areas – with a number of smaller pledges included. One eye-catching example was the plan to introduce a “lifelong love of reading” by starting ‘take one leave one’ libraries at all train stations and bus stops. 

Fine Gael’s manifesto has put a strong focus on supports for small businesses, and promises to “ensure every decision taken by Government is assessed for its impact on small and medium enterprises”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s manifesto is the only one of the three with a specific section on delivering a United Ireland. Neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael’s make mention of a United Ireland.

At a very topline level here’s a look at what each party has highlighted as its priorities (in their own words).

Fine Gael 

Fine Gael’s manifesto sets out seven priorities for the next five years. 

These are:

  1. More homes, more home ownership
  2. Backing small business and enterprise
  3. A new partnership for rural Ireland and farmers 
  4. Enforcing law and order
  5. Firm and fair migration
  6. Better public services and infrastructure 
  7. Health and sustainable communities

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil sets its objectives out under six key areas. 

  1. Create liveable communities
  2. Build safer communities
  3. Foster responsible communities
  4. Encourage inclusive communities
  5. Connect communities
  6.  Promote thriving active communities

We think they are into communities.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin has differed slightly in its approach. Much of its manifesto is used to highlight issues that it argues have been created or worsened by the government parties.

Sinn Féin says its priorities include: 

  1. Putting the delivery of social and affordable homes back at the top of the Council agenda
  2. Making your council work better for you
  3. Tackling red tape and delays – particularly in relation to planning and housing
  4. Getting Councils back doing the things they once did well – including waste services, cleaning streets and maintaining homes
  5. Investing in public spaces, leisure and sports facilities, transport and the local environment

So let’s get into the specific promises. 

Housing

Sinn Féin claims it is the only party with a plan to deliver the “biggest house building programme in the history of the State”.

It says it will do this by delivering homes through local Councils and Approved Housing Bodies “at prices people can genuinely afford” through the use of public land. 

However, it doesn’t include a figure for the amount of homes it would build.

By comparison, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both pledge to build 250,000 homes over the next five years. 

Both parties also promise to retain and expand the Help to Buy and the First Home scheme while also increasing the rent tax credit.

Fianna Fáil commits that it will not oppose social and affordable housing projects. 

It also promises that it will keep development levy exemptions and water charge rebate to reduce construction costs until December 2024 and will review them annually.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin claims it will put one month’s rent back into every private renters pocket if in Government and ban rent increases for three years. 

It says it will prioritise stopping vulture funds buying up family homes and student housing. Fine Gael also states that it will “seek to prevent the bulk purchase of homes”. 

Farming

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s manifestos both have specific sections with commitments on agriculture and farming. Sinn Féin’s does not. 

Fine Gael maintains that “agriculture is a vital part of our economy and farmers’ work must be rewarded and valued.”

It states that it wants farmers to be central to the changes being made as a result of climate change. 

Fianna Fáil says it wants farmers to be “assured about the future of their industry”.

Fine Gael’s manifesto commits to having councillors help in efforts for Ireland to retain its nitrates derogation after 2025. 

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto does not mention the nitrates derogation specifically, but Tánaiste Micheál Martin this week reaffirmed that his party is committed to retaining it. 

Likewise, Sinn Féin’s manifesto does not mention the derogation, but the party has previously said it supports keeping it in areas where it can be shown that water quality can be maintained and improved. 

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Fine Gael claims that in local government it will lead by helping and supporting people to make the changes needed to reduce emissions in a fair and equitable way. 

Among its pledges are to: 

  • Task each local authority with developing a ‘Green Audit’ of its suppliers (with contracts above a certain value) as part of a drive to achieve higher levels of sustainability in its supply chain.
  • Develop ‘Mobility Hubs’ in each local authority area, with EV charging points, car-sharing opportunities and electric bikes.
  • Develop a decarbonising zone in each local authority which will see a 75% carbon reduction in that area by 2030 through improved pedestrianisation and cycling facilities, mobility hubs, renewable energy, initiatives to cut down on packaging, reduce waste and improve repair options.
  • Place bees on the roofs of local authority owned buildings, where practical.

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto states that climate change is “the foremost challenge for our generation and those to come”.

Among its pledges are to: 

  • Launch a ‘Trees in Towns’ campaign to increase urban tree coverage.
  • Establish Circular Economy Taskforces in each local authority to collaborate with businesses, schools, and community groups.
  • Develop e-bike and e-scooter schemes in towns and cities
  • Continue to beautify towns and villages by promoting biodiversity, planting more trees, flowers, and shrubs, and maintaining existing ones. 

Sinn Féin says in its manifesto that reducing our carbon footprint and preventing the further destruction of our planet must be a key consideration in local government.

Among its pledges are to prioritise: 

  • Ensuring all local authorities have designated Climate Action Officers and Coordinators.
  • Expanding publicly owned and accessible green spaces and natural areas while contributing to carbon storage and sequestration.
  • Seeking to include district heating in new social housing developments where possible.
  • Prioritising coastal erosion and flooding prevention and management.

Local Property Tax

Sinn Féin’s manifesto states that it will reduce the local property tax to the lowest possible amount in annual council budgets, until such time as it is abolished by a Sinn Féin government. 

Fine Gael’s states that it believes that all money collected locally through the Local Property Tax should be retained within the county.

It also states that it wants more transparency on how the tax revenue is being spent.

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto makes no mention of the local property tax. 

Migration

Fine Gael sets out in its manifest that it wants to maintain a migration system that is “firm, fair and enforced”.

It states that it will move away from the emergency use of hotels for housing asylum seekers and that it will work with Government and State agencies to ensure local communities are provided with an “appropriate level” of extra services if asylum seekers are accommodated in their locality.

Fianna Fáil states in its manifesto that in order to encourage greater inclusivity in communities it will “recognise the positive contribution that immigration has on providing good public services and being the backbone of many sectors across Ireland”.

It states that it will work to decrease the number of hotels that are being utilised for temporary accommodation overall.

Sinn Féin’s manifesto makes no mention of the migration system.

Other promises

Here are some other standout promises from each of the manifestos:

 Fianna Fáil

  • Makes a commitment to reinstate Town Councils for towns with a population of 7,500 or more. 
  • Declutter public spaces for universal usability by removing unnecessary obstacles.
  • Expand the public piano scheme to all major transport stations. 
  • Mandate gender targets for board appointments in local authorities, such as the County Development Board and the Safeguarding Adult Board.
  • Launch a ‘Trees in Towns’ campaign to increase urban tree coverage.
  • Extend the ‘kids go free’ initiative for public transport.

Fine Gael 

  • To improve disability access, ensure footpaths are not blocked by overgrown hedges, signage and micropillars and promote dished kerbs and tactile crossings.
  • Promote the use of the Irish language in workplaces and social settings, especially outside Gaeltacht areas.
  • Work to ban the use of tobacco and nicotine-inhaling products from all local authority properties, excluding homes.
  • Work to ensure domestic violence victims have a point of contact within the Housing Department of the local authority to highlight their specific circumstances. 
  • Pilot two group retrofitting projects in each local area, where a group of neighbours will be offered the option to retrofit their homes together.
  • Work to surpass the target of 400 remote working hubs nationwide by 2025.

Sinn Féin

  • Review the impact of Fine Gael and Labour’s decision to abolish town and borough councils.
  • Increase transparency by mandating that all Council and Committee meetings be recorded and made available online.
  • Increasing the provision of public waste services; such as bins and recycling centres.
  • Youth mental health services and investment in local supports.
  • Put in place a meaningful programme of footpath restoration so everyone can walk and move around their local area safely.
  • Discuss the harmonisation and integration of local government services across the island of Ireland.

Smaller parties and Independents

The smaller parties have all also published local election manifestos.

You can read the Green’s here, Labour’s here, the Social Democrats here, People Before Profit-Solidarity’s here, and Aontú’s here. Independent Ireland has not published a manifesto but have details on its policies here

This election also has a huge amount of Independent candidates running, who do not set out their policy priorities in the form of manifestos. However, you can find out who is running in your local election here. 

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