Ireland has $8.5 billion invested in the fossil fuel industries of oil, gas, and coal via the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF). ISIF's purpose, according to its website, is to "invest on a commercial basis in a manner designed to support economic activity and employment in Ireland."
Under Ireland's new Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, the ISIF would sell its shares in fossil-fuel energy companies over a five-year period, despite the opposition of Irish prime minister Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael party.
Independent MP Thomas Pringle, who introduced the bill, said the ISIF will send a message to climate-change deniers and lobbyists. "This principle of ethical financing is a symbol to these global corporations that their continual manipulation of climate science, denial of the existence of climate change and their controversial lobbying practices of politicians around the world is no longer tolerated," Pringle said.
"We cannot accept their actions while millions of poor people in underdeveloped nations bear the brunt of climate change forces as they experience famine, mass emigration and civil unrest as a result."
Climate activist groups celebrated the decision, but the bill has only passed the Dáil. It must now pass the Seanad, the upper house, and then be signed into law by Irish president Michael Higgins.
However, the Dáil is, in effect, the law-making body of Ireland. The Seanad can only delay bills passed by them, not kill them, and the president is considered to be only a figurehead providing a stamp of approval.
The divestment bill is championed by many, including Trócaire, a charity owned by the Catholic Church. "With a climate-sceptic recently inaugurated into the White House, this move by elected representatives in Ireland will send out a powerful message," said Trócaire executive director Éamonn Meehan in a statement.
"The Irish political system is now finally acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: that to have a fighting chance to combat catastrophic climate change we must phase out fossil fuels and stop the growth of the industry that is driving this crisis."
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said of the bill, "Donald Trump—what an answer to him. What an answer to his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. We are going to be selling your ExxonMobil shares, sir, because we don't believe in the future that you stand for."
The bill does not say how the ISIF will structure its investments in the future. ISIF sold their investments in the tobacco industry in November 2016.
Norway passed a fossil-fuel divestment bill in early 2015, although not a full one, and the city of Sydney, Australia, dropped their $500-million investment in the petrochemical industries in late 2016. Previously, the Dáil, in November 2016, banned fracking in Ireland.