A group of secondary school students embarking on a national climate strike on March 15th have set out a series of initial demands – all of which are addressed to the Government.
The six demands were outlined at an informal meeting with politicians at Leinster House on Wednesday, which was attended by more than 20 Senators and TDS.
The students are seeking immediate adoption of the Citizens' Assembly recommendations, and an end to fossil fuel extraction in Ireland and more ambitious targets on renewable energy than already in place.
They also call on the Government to communicate the severity of the ecological crisis due to global warming to the general public, and are critical of a lack of urgency.
Latest indications are that more 90 schools from across 20 counties, including some primary schools, will be supporting the protest, which in some cases is being supported by teachers and parents.
The meeting at Dáil Éireann was convened by Oireachtas Climate Action Committee member Senator Máire Devine of Sinn Féin, who said she had asked students from a representative mix of schools around the country to Kildare Street to explain what their strike was about and to give an indication of their demands.
She told them they were part of a global movement of young people “administering a meaningful kick in the ass to politicians”.
Following a series of face-to-face meetings with fellow students and consultation with a wider group through social media using @pullthebrakes Twitter account, the students indicated their top six demands were:
1. The Government ensures all fossil fuels are left in the ground and that Ireland uses 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030.
2. The Government declares a climate emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice. The Government should always protect the wellbeing of the planet when making decisions.
3. The Government should not allow any new fossil fuel infrastructure to be built.
4. [The Government] makes transitioning to a CO2-neutral Ireland socially fair. We demand of the Government that it takes its responsibility seriously and avoids having regular citizens carry all the burden towards transitioning to a sustainable society.
5. The Government carries out all the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on climate change. As this is a climate emergency, we demand that the recommendations be implemented immediately.
6. The Government communicates the severity of the ecological crisis to the general public and publishes regular reports of their progress.
The meeting with politicians was attended by 34 Students from Cork Educate Together Secondary School (CETSS); North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School (NWETSS), The King's Hospital School in Dublin, Newpark Comprehensive School in Dublin, Piper's Hill College in Kildare, Limerick Educate Together Secondary School, Coláiste Chraobh Abhann in Wicklow, Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School and Cabinteely Community School in Dublin
Their demands were very clear, said Cian Farrell of CETSS, and it was expected they would be added to as other schools joined the protest. “Every single student in this room is tired of parliament not having done enough,” he told the politicians.
Saoi O’Connor (16) from west Cork, who has been protesting outside Cork City Hall every Friday for the past two months, said: “We need you to know, if you don’t act now, you will be complicit. We don’t want a pat on the head. We want change.”
Kate Minnock, a teacher at NWETSS, said that while it was difficult to quantify numbers likely to take part, "they are growing every day. We are into the thousands, especially as the Taoiseach in the Dáil has supported the action," she said – protests inspired by the actions of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg are due to take place in 59 countries.
The students' action has been strongly endorsed by climate justice campaigner Mary Robinson, who is chair of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.
In a video message, the former president commended the young people mobilising for climate action. “You have the courage and the insight to know that you’re are not being protected and that those with responsibility need to take urgent climate action,” she added.