Thousands of students in Ireland join international climate change protests

Fridays for Future: ‘These are our lives that are being put in danger. Politicians, do something’

Children around the world skipped school on Friday, March 15th to demand action on climate change. An estimated 11,000 people took part in Dublin. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

The climate strikes by school pupils in Ireland was led by protesters in Dublin, where more than 11,000 marched on Dáil Éireann at lunchtime seeking urgent action to address the growing threat of climate breakdown.

A total of 37 rallies were staged around the country in solidarity with the global movement prompted by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. They were supported by parents, teachers, third-level students, NGOs and members of the public.

In addition, numerous schools, especially primary schools, staged other climate events on their own premises.

Youth climate strikes were held in 105 countries; in excess of 2,000 events attended by tens of thousands of young people. The co-ordinated strikes were organised via social media by volunteers under the banner of Fridays for Future.

With half an hour to go before the Dublin march started, one side of St Stephen’s Green was completely filled. The marchers proceeded to the Dáil for a rally addressed by a large group of students from all over the country – there were no adults on the platform.

Proceedings had to be suspended for a short period as the crowds had got too big on Molesworth Street, and gardaí had to usher people onto Kildare Street because of concerns that crushing could lead to injuries.

Pointing to the Dáil, Beth Doherty (15) of the School Strike 4 Climate Ireland group told the crowd “People in the building behind me have ignored climate change”.

She added: “We have the technology but there is a lack of political will to solve the climate crisis... Politicians do something and save our futures. Today is not an excuse to doss. This is our future. These are our lives that are being put in danger. Politicians do something and save our future.”

She accused Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton of coming to the rally for a photo opportunity.

Molly (16), said she was not encouraged by her school to attend, which was a source of disappointment for her. “We may be too young to vote but we can convince the world that change is necessary.”

While previous generations had colonised the world and won wars, “We will be the first generation to save our planet,” she predicted.

A list of demands selected by students after extensive online discussion in social media channels was read out. They included keeping fossil fuels in the ground; the declaration of a national climate emergency, making Ireland carbon free by 2030, penalising the 100 corporations responsible for 70 per cent of global carbon emissions, and scaled up investment in renewable energy including wind and solar energy.

The final demand was that the protest action by young people would not end until the world had decarbonised and kept the world temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.

Mr Bruton paid tribute to the passion of protestors who had gathered “in huge numbers”.

“They are making a call that countries have to heed. Our Government needs to heed it, and we are developing a plan to do just that,” he added.

He denied it was patronising to praise their commitment on climate, and stressed that responding to the threat would require the support of whole communities, not only the Government.

Cork

Act now before it’s too late and make sure that Ireland plays its part in combating global warming and climate change – that was the message to the Government from Cork where an estimated 5,000 students took to the streets to call for action on the issue.

Students from all over the city and county began assembling at Cork Opera House on Emmet Place at around 11am where they met Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin who discussed the issue with them before they marched through the city centre to Cork City Hall.

Among those on the march were friends, Lucy Plant (17) and Laragh Collins (18) from Kinsale who took their protest on to the pillars of the Anglesea Street Courthouse where they highlighted the need for Ireland to reduce its carbon emissions in line with its international responsibilities.

“We’re missing a day from school but the climate is more important – too much time has been wasted and we need people to listen,” said Lucy who revealed that it was the first time that she had been on such a protest.

Laragh added: “We may be missing a day from school but won’t be able to go to school if the world has ended so we need governments to address this issue now – seeing so many young people here today calling for change, I just feel inspired – it’s brilliant.”

Tomás Mac Anri (15) from Carrigaline said it was important to address the issue of climate change now as failure to do so would have consequences for future generations. “We’re not being educated about global warming for nothing . . . we’re being educated about it to save the world so we have to start now.”

Tomás’s friend, Daniel McCarthy (15) pointed out that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had come out in support of the strike and he urged him to act on the issue, while , Eoin McDaid (15) said it was important that young people showed that they were dedicated to the cause.

The Cork protest was supported by many local politicians including Sinn Féin Ireland South MEP, Liadh Ní Riada and Fine Gael Senator, Jerry Buttimer while veteran Green Party activist, Dominick Donnelly said it was one of the biggest protests he could recall in Cork in recent years.

“I’ve been on many protests here in Cork and this is the biggest I’ve ever seen - organised by the kids themselves – the kids are shouting at us adults – sit up and listen – I have a sign here saying we are asleep at the wheel and we are and we need to change,” said Mr Donnelly.

Mr Donnelly paid tribute to the organisers of the Cork protest, secondary students Saoi O’Connor from Skibbereen and Darragh Cotter from Cork, who were delayed travelling back from attending the European Parliament in Strasbourg and were unable to attend the protest outside Cork City Hall.

Ecologist, Dr John Barimo, dressed as the Celtic Green Man, said he was greatly encouraged to see such a turnout and he praised the younger generation for taking up the cudgels on behalf of the environment and making the case for urgent action on climate change.

Jessica O’Sullivan (35) from Macroom was also heartened by the turnout: “It’s brilliant to see so many young people supporting this today - the young generation today seem to be so much more informed about what’s going on in the world than my generation - hopefully something will come of it.”

Waterford

Among the students who marched to the council offices at City Hall in Waterford were over 30 students from the city’s Newtown School and students and parents from the Educate Together school.

The local authority in Waterford has become the focus of recent criticism from environmental activists for a felling programme that has seen the city centre lose many of its trees.

Chants included, “The climate is changing so why aren’t we?” and “Climate change is not a lie, do not let the planet die”, as well as “No more coal, no more oil, keep your carbon in the soil”.

The students gathered under a plaque outside the council offices dedicated to the American abolitionist Frederick Douglas, who spoke there in 1845.

The students marched back to their schools afterwards, receiving beeps of support from passing motorists along the way.

Fifth year student Maura Carroll, said the students felt compelled to take part: “We want our planet to stay alive, there is no plan B. This is the only planet that we have.”

This was echoed by the words of a placard, reading: “There is no Plan(et) B.” Another placard called for “Policy change, not climate change” while one asked “Why are we the solution to your pollution?”

Ms Carroll said she hopes Friday’s protest will be the first: “We want change, we need it.”

Ennis

“There is no ‘Planet B’ and we need to do something before our futures are tuned to dust, there will be nothing left eventually.”

That is according to Coláiste Muire student Áine Dempsey (16) who was explaining why she and tens and thousands of school children across the country went on “school strike” today to highlight governments’ inaction over climate change across the world.

She was one of about 100 students from secondary and primary schools in Ennis that gathered at Daniel O’Connell monument in O’Connell Square on Friday for a colourful and noisy protest.

Hundreds more students from the Coláiste Muire in Ennis gathered on the school grounds at midday to protest.

At O’Connell Square, Áine Dempsey said: “Gatherings like this make me very hopeful. Our generation is going to do something about it whether everyone likes it or not.”

The student said: “I think it is disgraceful that we have to got to this point. We need to let our voices be heard. We can’t be pushed to the back just because we are young and small or don’t have a vote.”

She added: “We are running out of time – there is nothing we can do once the damage is done. Government must adhere to agreements already made and heed the warnings of our scientists.

“We have met with the principal and vice principal to try to change how things are done from a more environmentally friendly way and they have been so supportive,” she said.

Class-mate Wiane Kanane also delivered a stark message to Government.

She said: “We are already past the point of no return, climate change has got to the point where we can’t go back.

“We are going to school everyday being told that we need to invest in our futures yet the Government isn’t investing in our future or in the planet’s.”

Holding a poster “System change – not climate change” a third-year student at the Coláiste Muire, Kate Harty said: “We need the system to change to avoid climate change if we are to have a future on this planet because the consequences of climate change are disastrous and unfortunately are already happening.”

Donegal

More than 50 pupils from schools across Co Donegal gathered in Lifford for the climate strike protest.

The protest, sparked locally by Buncrana student Conal O’Boyle, saw primary and secondary school pupils call on the Government to play their part in tackling climate change.

Conal, a transition-year student in Crana College in Buncrana, said he was delighted with the turnout for Friday’s protest.

“It is a first and I know other schools across Donegal are holding their own little protests at their schools.

“We want the officials and the councillors in there [the council offices] to hear us and to realise that we as young people are taking climate change very seriously but we want them to do the same.

“I understand that all the talk is about Brexit but that will have moved on in years to come but climate change will not have if we do not address it.

“Things change and we can do something about it, beginning with our use of plastics or changing our habits to include simple things like taking our own reusable coffee cups with us,” he said.

Among the pupils who attended were 14 students from Meentinadea National School in Ardara.

Teacher Áine Mic Giolla Bride said, “We are on our sixth Green Flag and the environment and the issue of climate change is very much part of our school day, each and every day.

“It’s great to see so many young people here today and I feel it is great that they are able to protest and to question what is happening in Ireland and around the world,” she said.

Co Kerry

The children are not the ones with their heads in the sand – it is the adults who are indulging in the fairy stories, was the message in Co Kerry on Friday where the reality of climate change was baldly stated.

“There is no planet B,” primary school children in Dingle today warned as an estimated 200 primary and secondary students marched from the town park in Dingle to assemble at the Fungie the Dolphin statue on the quay.

Finn Slattery-Dunk (12) of Cill Mhic Domhnaigh National School in Ventry was one of the main organisers of the protest in the most westerly town in Ireland. He had distributed fliers around Dingle some weeks ago and said on Friday he was delighted with the reaction.

“Climate change is real, we have no time to waste,” his poster said.

Back in Tralee, some 200 secondary school students were outside county buildings in at Rathass for a five-hour vigil.

Several were in their Leaving Cert year, including the three organisers of the event, Niamh O’Shea, Ciara Boyd and Barry Sugrue

“We picked school time because what’s the point in going to school for a future that may not be there?” asked Barry. “We just want to show how important this is to us,” he said.

The students included some from Killarney and Listowel.

As part of the preparation, suggestions from 250 students were gathered and 10 main points compiled and emailed to Co Kerry’s 33 councillors yesterday.

Politicians from all parties turned up to speak to the campaigners during their vigil.