Student protest calls on Government to take radical action on climate crisis
Thousands of students around the country take to the streets to demand action
Thousands of young Irish students took to the streets at lunchtime on Friday in a second round of national protests demanding a more radical response by the Government to climate disruption.
The biggest event was held at Merrion Square, Dublin, where an estimated 3,000 people protested – a previous rally in March was attended by more than 11,000 people.
Several hundred people protested outside Cork City Hall while other rallies took place in Galway; Limerick, Navan, Maynooth, Ennis, Kenmare, Longford, Dún Laoghaire, Wexford, Letterkenny, Dundalk, Killarney, Athlone and Greystones.
Many schools, supported by teachers and parents, held smaller events in solidarity with a global day of action led by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. More than 1,600 marches were staged in 119 countries.
The Irish events were co-ordinated by a number of student groups – including Schools’ Climate Action Network (SCAN) and Fridays For Future Ireland – who organise and agree climate demands mainly through social media.
At the Dublin rally, the Government came in for sustained criticism for inaction and lack of urgency. Referring to Government Buildings, Beth Doherty of SCAN said: “Because people in the building around the corner won’t take action, we have to.”
No TD could defend Ireland’s poor global record in reducing carbon emissions and meeting climate targets, she added.
Leaving Cert student Lucy Holmes (17) from Mullingar read her poem called Complacency, which included lines wishing to “apologise to people yet to be, about what they won’t see” in a world damaged by climate breakdown, and a warning, “I’m not asking nicely anymore”.
The speakers stood on a platform where a large papier mache globe was displayed with a request attached, “please help save me”. It was made by the No Planet B Group from fourth class at the Mercy Convent national school in Naas.
SCAN spokeswoman Molly Mercier-Redmond said their approach on this occasion was supporting “decentralised actions” throughout the country with the message that everyone could make a difference. “Across the world, this movement is growing,” she added.
Dublin’s Lord Mayor Nial Ring said he was present to express solidarity with the strikers. “I’m hugely encouraged by the young protesting. They are our future.”
He said Dublin City Council had declared a climate emergency recently. “Now words have to be put into action. That will be a priority for the next council.”
In Cork, young environmental activists marched through the city centre calling on the Government to take action beyond what they feared was tokenism around the declaring of a climate and biodiversity emergency.
Saoi O’Connor, a transition year student from Skibbereen, said the Government seemed to be under the illusion that declaring an emergency was enough to “pacify” them.
“They are wrong. Declaring the emergency was nice. It was nice to be acknowledged. I was very emotional about it. It’s not enough. We have had a lot of people say ‘the Government has declared an emergency. Why are you still protesting?’”
Juliusz Miilewski, a third-year student from Clonakilty said the Government was writing reports on climate change rather than taking worthwhile action. “I am here to protest [about] the Government and specifically Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for their lack of action on this entire climate crisis. They keep on going out with report after report but our emission levels keep going up.”
Maureen Cullinane from Ballincollig of Elders for a Livable Earth said she felt compelled to walk in solidarity with the teenage activists. “We are a new group who are supporting any movements that are taking care of our planet. My own granddaughter when I talk to her says that whatever we (older people) do, we need to do a thousand times more because we are so guilty. The young people are very well informed. They are anxious. And we are anxious.”
The Government has agreed to one of the demands of the protesters in declaring an emergency. It has also endorsed the recommendations of a landmark report from the all-party Committee on Climate Action, and is about to publish its response in a major plan to tackle climate disruption.
SCAN’s other demands include an end to future fossil-fuel extraction; reform of the education system to address the need for ecological literacy and active steps to achieve climate justice. The students also seek stronger regulation of “corporations that are causing the climate crisis” and “a transformation to reduce emissions from agriculture”.
The students are to support another global day of action on September 20th in advance of a UN summit in New York when signatory countries to the Paris Agreement will have to spell out in detail national actions to address climate disruption.