Politicians call on schools to allow students attend climate strike

Activists criticise Blackrock College on letter urging parents to not let sons attend event

The group of TDs and Senator gathered to call for mass participation in the strike which coincides with the opening of a UN climate summit in New York.

The group of TDs and Senator gathered to call for mass participation in the strike which coincides with the opening of a UN climate summit in New York.


TDs and Senators have called on schools to enable as many students as possible to attend Friday’s climate strike.

Speaking with members of the group who gathered with student activists outside the Dáil on Thursday afternoon, Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said schools advising students not to strike was a “pity”.

She said the students who met Oireachtas members on Thursday had been on strike three times already “and they’re very articulate, they’re very passionate, they’re very political about what they’re demanding, and I think that sort of activity is in itself part of a holistic education”.

“Rather than thinking education is only about the classroom . . . taking action is a very important part of development, and a very important part of being in a society.”

Mass participation

The group of TDs and Senators, who included Independents and members of the Labour Party, Social Democrats and Sinn Féin, gathered to call for mass participation in the strike which coincides with the opening of a UN climate summit in New York.

Fee-charging secondary school Blackrock College in south Co Dublin has attracted criticism from some climate activists after writing to parents urging them to ensure their sons did not take part in Friday’s protests.

Principal Alan McGinty told them “I feel attendance at these events has at best a neutral impact on the campaign and inevitably a negative impact on schooling”, albeit the school would be represented at the Dublin march by its green school’s committee.

‘Take a stand’

Heritage group An Taisce said it regretted the school’s position.

“Our young have done the least to drive this crisis, yet will suffer the most in the years and decades ahead,” An Taisce said.

“They are entitled to express their anger and frustration at our inaction, and they are also entitled to expect our full support and solidarity.”

Paul Rowe, chief executive of the Educate Together network of schools, said adults “have a responsibility” to support students and to “take a stand” on the issue.

“A modern school ethos must be centred on listening to and engaging with the student voice and enabling young people to express their concerns for themselves, their generation and their future,” he said.

North Wicklow Educate Together principal Jonathan Browner said the school was bringing students from second, third and fourth year to take part.

“Their voice is the one that needs to be heard right now. They are the future. We are the generation that caused this mess. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate way of learning to participate in peaceful demonstration.”

Many other schools are not actively encouraging students to attend but are allowing it where there is written permission from parents.

Safeguarding issues

Mark Boobbyer, principal of St Columba’s College in Dublin, said: “I’m only allowing transition-year kids to go because in a boarding school if I get a couple of hundred kids who want to go, trying to get permission from all their parents is a total nightmare,” he said, citing among other things safeguarding issues.

Fr Martin Browne, headmaster of Glenstal Abbey School, Co Limerick, said the school had no plans to send students.

“We won’t be busing students to any demonstrations or anything like that,” he said. “The last time there was a strike a group of students here took part in a serious cleanup of the campus as a gesture of solidarity with what was going on.”

Third-level students were also present outside the Dáil on Thursday to lend their support to the younger students ahead of the strike.

“It’s one day of school compared to so many years potentially of climate catastrophe we have coming down the line, so I guess it’s a weighing up in the balance of, which one is going to have a bigger impact,” said Alexandra Day (21), a masters student at Trinity College studying international history.

“Young people are going to be the most affected by this . . . we’ve seen that it’s not a matter of sitting down and explaining to these corporations and governments what’s happening – they know what’s happening and they don’t care.”