Columban Schools journalism winners stage climate strike

Religious order praises initiative of climate action protest at Dalgan Park, Navan

Climate strike at Dalgan Park, Co Meath  after the presentation of the 2019 Columban Schools Journalism awards. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Climate strike at Dalgan Park, Co Meath after the presentation of the 2019 Columban Schools Journalism awards. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times


A “climate strike” was held by winners of this year’s Columban Schools Journalism competition on Friday afternoon.

As prizes were presented at Dalgan Park in Co Meath on Friday afternoon, the winners of the competition used posters to alert passing traffic to the reality of climate change.

The strike reflected the theme of the competition, The Challenge of Climate Change, and was held on the N3 outside Dalgan Park, the Columban Missionary Society’s home near Navan.

Columban priest Fr Sean McDonagh said the theme reflected the Columbans’ long established advocacy on Climate Change in all 16 countries where they work.

Fr Sean McDonagh who has written extensively on climate change and who has been a climate action advocate both here and in the Philippines, said he had been greatly empowered by the papal encyclical on climate change. He also said he was encouraged to see so many young people “doing what we, our generation did not do”.

The awards were presented by climate activist Lorna Gold who said she too had been influenced by Pope Francis who was a great communicator. She said she was also influenced by Greta Thunberg the teenager who sparked the student strike movement globally.

“She is an incredible communicator and uses wonderful images to explain what is happening to our world: ‘the house is on fire . . . I want you to panic’ ,” Ms Gold said.

Ms Gold told the winners there were three qualities needed “to solve this great challenge facing humanity”. The first was “the courage to tell the truth” she said.

“There is such a thing as scientific truth, there are facts.” She said people should always have the courage to tell their own truth.


The second quality was leadership. She said climate change can seem very far away for a lot of people. She told the winners “what you are doing through your writing is making this issue much closer to home”.

“You are giving it faces, names, and places. You are helping people to see that far from being a remote issue, this is something which is already affecting people and other species right now.”

The third thing needed. which she could see in the students, was “the capacity to think independently and ask the hard questions”.

“Sometimes it can be easy to follow the crowd and not question what is happening around you, but your stories demonstrate that you are curious about the world,” she said.

Each journalism award had two categories, writing and video, and leading journalists in Britain and Ireland judged the entries. The Irish winners in the print category were: 1st place ‘A Cry for Action’ by Ailbhe Murphy, Salerno Secondary School, Salthill, Co Galway; Second place ‘A Planet in Peril’ by Tola Ni Shuilleabhain of Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty, Co Cork; and in third place ‘The Challenge of Climate Change’, Fiachra Mooney, St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin 15.

First place in the video category went to Elizabeth Scanlan, Christ the King Girls’ Secondary School, South Douglas Road, Cork City. Second place was awarded to Kate Gallagher, Róisín Kelly and Hazel Toomey, Salesian College, Copsewood, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. And joint third place went to Jamie Finnegan, David Burke and Mark Cox of CBS Roscommon, Abbeytown, Ballypheasan, Roscommon, and to Hazel McMorrow, St Louis Secondary School, Glen Road, Monaghan.

The full list of winners for both regions is at