Movement Manifestos: What each political party is promising for the 2024 local elections

Comment & Analysis: Policy manifestos are a well-used tool by political parties for a media call ahead of local election ampaigns, but very rarely are the headlines about the quality of their contents.

One of the few powers remaining with city and county councils are that of road projects, and the prioritisation of users. These have become divisive issues within communities all around Ireland and each party has a slightly different approach to solving them.

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As we rapidly approach polling day, Sinn Fein, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party, and the Social Democrats, have all produced their documents, but what are the parties’ committing too in terms of local transport policy when asking for your number one vote?

Sinn Fein

The shortest manifesto is Sinn Fein’s, although they’re the only party to publish fully in English and as Gaeilge. There is a dedicated page for transport, however the most interesting policy commitment is elsewhere.

“Utilising the NTA’s Walkability Audit when reviewing footpaths and routes for resurfacing and intervention.”

Universal Design is an incredibly important position to approach any project from, but within local infrastructure, it can be the difference of people having their own independence.

One of the most common criticisms during public consultations, is the failure to engage with Disabled Persons Organisations, or adhere to the UN Convention of Human Rights for People with Disabilities. Sinn Fein’s commitment to utilising the NTA’s Walkability Audit, should be a great step forward for everyone, regardless of their level of mobility.

Sinn Fein acknowledge one of the biggest issues for local communities in their transport section: 

“We also recognise that many children cannot safely access school without relying on a lift from parents.”

Most daily commuters relish the summer months, when road congestion dramatically declines as students enjoy their well-deserved break. Achieving significant modal shift on the school run, would have a significant impact on local congestion all year-round.

Sinn Fein do commit to “Incorporating ‘Safe Routes to School’ into all Development Plans and Local Area Plans.” However they fail to make any strong commitments to prioritise active travel users over the private car, other than to “develop and improve” plans.

Fine Gael

Unlike Sinn Fein, Fine Gael’s manifesto does go into some granular detail when it comes to individual policy commitments, however they do fall into the same trap, in focusing on national level policy, and what they have achieved while in Government.

Disappointingly, Fine Gael’s language seems to lack the leadership you’d expect to see in a policy document, such as:

“Promote a universal design approach in active travel, safe routes to school, greenways and local transport options to improve accessibility”

And to:

“Drive delivery of active travel and greenways programmes through our local authorities.”

The most interesting transport commitment is actually in their public services section, which is to introduce a new Bike-to-College scheme. One of the biggest challenges with the Cycle to Work scheme is that, in order to avail of it, you need to be in employment, which leaves those on social welfare, State pensions, or students ineligible.

Cycle to Work is an important scheme for addressing the transport sectors rising carbon emissions, and reducing congestion, so it’s very welcome to see an education version of the scheme within Fine Gael’s policy commitments, albeit not something their local election candidates could deliver.

Fianna Fáil

Again, we see with Fianna Fáil, national policy commitments in a local election manifesto, committing to the introduction of a dedicated police force for public transport.

This is something that has been called for by various groups in the transport sector, so it’s very welcome to have it reflected within a party policy document, but directing the Garda Commissioner to create this policing unit would be a privilege reserved for the Minister for Justice, not local councillors.

What would be achievable within their commitments is an expansion of secure bike parking, along with improved lighting and visibility at transport hubs to improve local safety. 

Fianna Fáil also want to introduce a ‘Safer Town Vision Zero’ fund to address ‘hazardous bends, junctions and roads, which I’m sure would be very welcome at a local level to tackle known danger spots for road users.

They’re also committing to a review of speed limits across the country, however it’s unclear if that will go further than the recently signed Roads bill that set new maximum speed limits nationally.   

Social Democrats

At 71 pages, the Social Democrats local election manifesto is easily the most robust amongst all political parties. From a transport standpoint, the party is very specific about a number of policy points.

Not only do they commit to implementing the Cycle Connects Network, and the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan, but they will also adhere to the Hierarchy of Road users, programme traffic lights to give cyclists head starts and invest in bicycle parking infrastructure at transit hubs.

One standout point within the Social Democrats manifesto, is:

“We will further ensure that the National Transport Authority is more responsive to meeting requests from local authorities.”

Whilst this is most likely to be a directive from Dáil Éireann, rather than something achievable at local council level, should it be successfully introduced, it would be very welcomed by all local authorities and councils to have increased engagement with the NTA, so they can better implement local infrastructure projects.

Green Party

As you might expect, the Green Party, who currently hold the transport portfolio under Minister Eamon Ryan, have a well-developed transport policy. However, as a Government partner, they seem to have fallen into the same habit as some others, highlighting national policy, rather than what’s achievable by local councillors.

There are of course some notable policy commitments, such as the creation of shared bike schemes in large towns across the country, and rolling out bike bunkers in urban areas for sheltered, secure bike parking.

Their standout policy is to re-orient the focus of parking enforcement personnel, so they are equally focused on illegal parking as much as pay-and-display.

Illegal parking is rampant within some communities, vehicles often blocking footpaths to such an extent that it forces vulnerable users out onto the road. That simple change could lead to a massive cultural shift across Ireland, one where it’s no longer acceptable for people to selfishly block walkways and cycle paths for children going to school.

Labour

It’s quite notable for the party whose leader is rarely seen without her bicycle, that the very first commitment in their manifesto, is an audit of active transport infrastructure. The Labour Party’s transport policies stand out quite a bit from their contemporaries with similar sized documents.

Walkable towns and city centres, improved pedestrian facilities, bus connects, and active travel infrastructure improvements are all items successful Labour councillors will campaign for. 

The most exciting policy from a local level, is the rollout of: 

“secure bicycle storage facilities at all bus shelters and transport hubs”

This is very much under the remit of local councils to deliver at bus shelters; secure cycle parking is one of the key challenges of the ‘last-mile problem… how people make that final journey between their home and transit point. If Labour councillors were able to deliver on this point, it could have a dramatic impact on local active amd public transport.

What does it mean?

One thing that is consistent across all party manifestos, is a commitment to increasing public and active transport priority within local communities. In reality however, many transport activists, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users, will understand the frustration of engaging with some representatives who don’t seem to align with their own party policy at a local level.

The six parties that have produced these manifestos represent 75% of the current public support, so reading them, you could certainly expect a seismic shift in re-prioritisation of our transport network towards sustainable travel.

The 2024 local elections take place on Friday June 7th and canvassing teams will be out in communities across the Country over the next week asking for your 1st preference vote.

Asking for their commitment to their own party policy, to see these commitments to active and public transport delivered over the coming five years, would go a great way to actually see the transformative change they all claim to want.

Links to local election manifestos

Note: In the interest of fairness, this article has been organised in order of current party popularity in national polls.

Jason Cullen is Chairperson of the Dublin Commuter Coalition; an advocacy group devoted to improving the provision of sustainable mobility in the Greater Dublin Area. He is also a member and activist in  the Social Democrats.

2 comments

  1. Very surprised that Jason has not looked at the commuter options in the manifest which are buses trams and rail which are in all the policy’s but need council support to give over space for new accessible stops and lanes these are the only councillors I would support

    Reply
  2. Apparently, Sinn Féin believes that the long waiting lists for getting a driver’s license and the poor quality of local roads are the main reasons for the high number of fatalities in 2023:

    > […] Green party Minister Eamon Ryan and his Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil government have consciously underfunded the budget for maintenance of local roads. The poor condition of our roads undoubtedly feeds into accidents.
    > […]
    > As part of our plan to improve road safety, we must consider the roadworthiness of transport vehicles, and the education of drivers. In that regard, the waiting times for both NCT and NDLS appointments must be improved. Within one term of government, Sinn Féin will commit to hiring additional testers within both services to ensure a timely and effective access to car and driver testing.

    Reply

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