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Local elections: What are the main parties promising on housing, immigration and transport?

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin’s manifestos are less detailed than documents put to the electorate in 2020 but may be used to road-test policies before next general election

3 main parties local election manifestos

The local election campaign is well and truly under way and the three main parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin – have all published their manifestos filled with promises. In all three cases the local election manifestos are much slimmer and less detailed documents than their general election counterparts which were all more than 100 pages long.

For the 2024 local elections, Fianna Fáil’s manifesto runs to 24 pages. Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have 32 pages each. Sinn Féin’s document is in Irish and English so there is just 16 pages of actual content. The shorter lengths probably reflect the vastly more limited powers available to councillors and local authorities.

Many of the pledges contained in the manifestos will require the respective parties to be in government nationally after the impending general election for them to be carried out. The local elections are an opportunity to road-test policies with voters in advance of the big vote for Dáil seats. So what are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin promising voters who turn out to choose councillors on June 7th?

Housing

The housing crisis has long been expected to be the big issue in the upcoming general election. Unsurprisingly all three parties have housing pledges front and centre in their local election manifestos. Fianna Fáil says the party in Government has “got Ireland back building” and claims to have “turned the tide on housing” with its Housing for All plan.

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Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael promise to build 250,000 homes over the next five years and to extend schemes like Help-to-Buy.

In terms of efforts to reduce homelessness, Fianna Fáil promises to “continue to build the largest social housing programme in the history of the State”. Fianna Fáil also says its councillors will not oppose social and affordable housing projects. Fine Gael claims to be “the party that got homebuilding off the ground after the financial crisis”. It also promises to “seek to prevent the bulk purchase of homes” saying the party has already introduced some measures to do this and “we will keep them under active review”.

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, as the main Opposition party, argues that after 13 years of Fine Gael in Government “home ownership has collapsed”. The party promises that a “strong Sinn Féin team in local government will prioritise delivering the biggest public housing programme in the history of the State to meet social and affordable housing need”. Sinn Féin claims to be the only party with a plan to deliver such a programme. The party promises its councillors will “use compulsory purchase, where practical, and return to use derelict and vacant properties”. Asked if fulfilling the pledge to delivering the biggest public housing programme in the history of the State required a Sinn Féin government to fulfil given the limited powers of councillors and local authorities Sinn Féin said: “Local authorities have significant powers when it comes to housing and planning, though of course we want Councils with strong Sinn Féin representation working with Sinn Féin in government to ensure the biggest public housing programme in the history of the State is delivered. Electing Sinn Féin councillors is, in fact, key delivering this.”

Immigration

Immigration is also a hot topic on the campaign trail amid an upsurge in anti-immigrant protests in recent times. Fine Gael includes a section specifically on immigration in its local election manifesto. It promises to maintain a migration system that is “firm, fair and enforced”. Fine Gael outlines how the Government is working to increase accommodation places for migrants. The document pledges that Fine Gael will “move away from the emergency use of hotels for housing asylum seekers” though it does not go as far as committing that the practice will end though it intends for this to happen in towns with just one hotel.

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto addresses immigration issues in a section entitled “promote thriving communities”. As part of efforts to encourage greater inclusivity, Fianna Fáil says it will “recognise the positive contribution that immigration has on providing good public services” and it will establish local integration forums which will “allow people to safely discuss and have their concerns about immigration addressed”.

Somewhat surprisingly given the level of debate on the issue, Sinn Féin does not reference immigration in its local election manifesto. Speaking at the manifesto launch party leader Mary Lou McDonald said Ireland needed an immigration system that was “fair”, “efficient” and “enforced”. Asked about the absence of references to immigration in its local election manifesto Sinn Féin said: “Local authorities have no role in relation to immigration policy, however Sinn Féin believe in an immigration system that is fair, efficient and enforced. It will, of course, feature in our European election manifesto.”

Law and order

Fianna Fáil says it will introduce a dedicated police force for public transport and it will prioritise public safety in towns and cities by boosting funding for crime prevention officers. It promises to strengthen the powers of the local authority to evict tenants for “extreme antisocial behaviour”.

Aside from policies like growing Garda numbers, Fine Gael highlights plans to increase penalties for knife crime and strengthen the use of antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos). It also promises to clamp down on the dangerous use of scrambler bikes. Sinn Féin says it will “fight for more gardaí – that are visible and on the beat”. It says it will support the development of relationships between local community gardaí and vulnerable communities among other measures.

Local Property Tax

One tangible power councillors have is to raise and lower Local Property Tax in their areas by as much as 15 per cent either way. Fine Gael promises to maintain councillors’ discretion to decide the rate for their area and says the party “will work at local and national level to detail where your money is being spent”. Sinn Féin says LPT is “regressive” and “outdated” and says its councillors will reduce the tax “to the lowest possible amount in annual council budgets, until such time as it is abolished by a Sinn Féin government”. Fianna Fáil’s document does not mention LPT.

Transport

Fianna Fáil says it will increase electric vehicle charging points. On road safety it is promising a thorough review of speed limits across the country and expanded traffic calming measures. Fine Gael’s manifesto promises to “work to ensure local authorities have the greatest level of discretion on which roads projects are prioritised and funded”. Sinn Féin says its councillors will prioritise delivering increased funding to ensure local roads are properly maintained.