Extinction Rebellion and Mary Robinson


Sir, – I was amazed to read Mary Robinson’s unqualified remarks in support of Extinction Rebellion (News, October 11th). She likened Extinction Rebellion demonstrators to the peaceful anti-apartheid demonstrations in South Africa, and also said, “What Extinction Rebellion are essentially trying to do is disrupt and the truth is we need disruption”.

Is Mrs Robinson not aware of the fundamental philosophy and radical politics of Extinction Rebellion?

This information is there for all to read on their website in their “Declaration of Rebellion”, “We hereby declare the bonds of the social contract to be null and void, which the government has declared invalid by its continuing failure to act appropriately [on climate change]. We call upon every principled and peaceful citizen to rise with us.”

The social contract is representative democracy whereby citizens elect politicians of their choice to form a government that, with the consent of the citizens, makes laws and runs the country for a limited number of years before standing for another election in which the citizens pass judgment. The system is not perfect of course, but it has served civilisation well for a long time. To tear up this social contract now because it has been slow to deal with climate change would, in my opinion, be amazingly reckless.

Extinction Rebellion demands that, “Governments must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens Assembly on climate and ecological justice”. But we have a Citizens’ Assembly already, an elected Government and Opposition sitting in Leinster House. And what evidence is there that a Citizens’ Assembly of randomly chosen citizens would work nearly as well as democratically elected Dáil Éireann?

I understand the frustration Extinction Rebellion feels at the slow progress being made in tackling climate change but we must not allow this frustration to impel us to scrap democratic mechanisms that have served us well for so long. Rather we should tell our politicians in government that if they do not act now they will not get our votes again.

I am particularly taken aback that such an influential figure as Mrs Robinson would uncritically support Extinction Rebellion.

She has a duty to support our social contract, a contract she was happy to endorse when she stood for election to the office of president of Ireland, an office she occupied for almost a full term. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor,

of Biochemistry,

University College Cork.

Sir, – Readers of The Irish Times will be glad to know that one of the members of the “International Advisory Board” of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice is none other than Sir Richard Branson.

Not content with running an airline that spews carbon into the atmosphere, for just $250,000, Sir Richard and his pals in Virgin Galactic will take you into orbit.

Amaze your friends, and Extinction Rebellion, with a carbon footprint that can be seen from space. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.