View from the street: Unofficial Ireland vows to make voice heard

Our group includes academics, veteran peace activists, NGO workers and organic farmers

The Irish Stop Climate Chaos contingent before departing for COP21 in Paris. Photograph: Eoin Campbell

The Irish Stop Climate Chaos contingent before departing for COP21 in Paris. Photograph: Eoin Campbell

 

Finally, Irish authorities are taking a proactive role at the COP21 climate summit in Paris – it’s just a shame their first real intervention almost resulted in having climate campaigners deported, writes William Hederman.

When our bus carrying 35 Stop Climate Chaos activists from Ireland was detained at Cherbourg ferry port on Thursday night, French police told us they had been expecting us, and that the threat to deport us was a consequence of information received from “the Irish authorities”. This was subsequently confirmed to The Irish Times’s Lara Marlowe by French police.

It isn’t clear yet which Irish authorities are referred to, but they must have known a police force on high alert under France’s state of emergency would take the tip-off seriously. Nevertheless, after two hours of negotiations and international phone calls, we were on our way to Paris.

Up to now, the message official Ireland has conveyed in Paris has been: climate change is not really our problem. On the summit’s opening day, in a briefing to Irish media, Enda Kenny argued the IFA’s case that a special dispensation must be made for Irish agriculture, and that the proposed targets for carbon emissions reductions were “unrealistic” for Ireland.

His performance strengthened the resolve of our unofficial Irish delegation to make our voices heard in Paris.

Civil disobedience

When you hear that police have intercepted activists at a port and tried to deport them, following a tip-off from someone in Ireland, you might wonder just how dangerous are these insurrectionists? The answer is not very.

Our group, ranging in age from 20 to 72, includes academics, veteran peace activists, NGO workers, organic farmers and college undergraduates – for some of the latter, this will be their first summit mobilisation.

That said, some in the group do bring with them a proud tradition of civil disobedience. An hour before we disembarked from the ferry, I had been chatting to Grace O’Sullivan, who was on the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985 when the French secret service bombed the Greenpeace vessel, which had been trying to stop French nuclear weapons testing in the south Pacific.

“I feel as motivated today as I did 30 years ago,” she told me. “As a nation we’ve been let down by the words of the Taoiseach. He clearly doesn’t grasp the problem of climate change.”

After what seemed like an interminable voyage, on Friday we have joined thousands of campaigners from around the world for a day and evening of networking, training and planning for a myriad range of demonstrations and creative actions on Saturday.

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