About 600 scientists and supporters of a scientific outlook marched through Dublin city centre to the Dáil on Saturday as part of a “global demonstration for science”.
The international March for Science event was organised in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as US president which has led to a shift in American policy on fossil fuels and the environment.
Demonstrations took place in 600 cities and other locations, including Washington DC, Berlin and London.
The Dublin march started punctually from Grand Canal Dock at just after 2pm, with scientists, professors and students in lab coats turning out to stand up for evidence-based decision-making in politics.
Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, an assistant professor of mathematics at University College Dublin, was one of the organisers of the Dublin event.
“I think it’s really important today that we have policies that are evidence-based, that we don’t go by hearsay or opinion on various issues such as climate change and vaccinations.
“I think it’s tremendous that scientists are out marching today, and I think it took a lot of people some thought to buy into this. There’s so many people here and with their families, I think it’s just a great day to be a scientist, or someone who supports science.”
Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson attended the demonstration. Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Robinson said she was marching because she "supported science".
“We need the sciences, we need to values the sciences, and that’s why I’m here.”
Provost of Trinity College Dublin Dr Patrick Prendergast also took part. "I'm here because I'm supporting policy-based science. I think science is an incredibly important feature of policy-making," Dr Prendergast said.
“Ireland is a country that does very well in science, we have excellent scientists here contributing greatly to the development of the economy. And perhaps more importantly, science is relevant to understanding what is happening to our environment, and developing a plan for the planet to sustainably be habitable for billions of people,” he said.
“Science is always about questioning. It’s not to do with one US presidency or another, it’s to do with subjecting ideas to tests, and when the facts line up you take that as important. But to be open to having a hypothesis corroborated by facts is important,” Dr Prendergast added.
The demographic of young science students, supporters and seasoned college professors might not be the type usually given to direct demonstration.
There were also some teething problems in sourcing a loudspeaker, which took a few moments at the start of the march to sort out.
But the marching crowd quickly found their voice. The favourite chant of the day a slightly nerdy take on a classic. “What do we want, evidence-based policy. When do we want it, after peer review” the choice chant ran.
A stray drone was spotted flying overhead, controlled by an onlooking enthusiast filming proceedings from above.
The crowd had an array of imaginative posters and placards, with slogans condemning “fake news” and Mr Trump’s anti-science posturing.
Repurposed Eamon Ryan election posters earned a group of Green Party supporters top marks for the most environmentally conscious placards of the day.
The Green Party leader and TD said he was enthused with the turnout in Dublin, for what was a global day of support. "The denial of science happening at the moment with President Trump and others can't be ignored, and has to be fought," Mr Ryan outlined.
The Green Party leader, who arrived on a bicycle, said people “need to stand up for science and the use of evidence in policy”.
The march finished outside the Department of the Taoiseach and the Dáil at just past 3pm, with gardaí estimating more than 600 people had participated.
One stewarding garda noted it was a march, not a protest. The scientists and professors, however, with lab coats and loudspeaker in hand, seemed to quite enjoy the day playing the agitator. “The oceans are rising, and so are we” they chanted.