Monday 21 October 2019

Anger in the air as thousands of students hit the streets to demand climate action

Rory Rusnak (14), from Sutton Park School (centre) and Liv Hamilton (left), from Cross and Passion School in Kilcullen, Kildare, take part in the climate change march at Merrion Square in Dublin. Photos: Damien Eagers/Gerry Mooney
Rory Rusnak (14), from Sutton Park School (centre) and Liv Hamilton (left), from Cross and Passion School in Kilcullen, Kildare, take part in the climate change march at Merrion Square in Dublin. Photos: Damien Eagers/Gerry Mooney
Roz Purcell, in Merrion Square. Photos: Damien Eagers/Gerry Mooney
Claire McGrath (5) from Naas, Co Kildare. Photos: Damien Eagers/Gerry Mooney
Isabelle Barr, a student at Loreto, St Stephen’s Green. Photos: Damien Eagers/Gerry Mooney

Caroline O'Doherty

So once again there were samba drums, snappy slogans and funny placards but this time they couldn't mask the anger in the air.

The third and biggest nationwide schools climate strike saw thousands of young people leave classrooms to protest for climate action and as the numbers have grown, so has the outrage.

The largest, in Dublin, wasn't permitted to march to Leinster House but whichever TDs remained in their offices on a fine Friday afternoon could not have missed the spirited crowd snaking its way from Custom House Quay to Merrion Square. Nor could they have failed to hear the castigation aimed at them by the young speakers around the corner from their back gate. "Listen, Leo, Listen," they chanted. Climate Action Now.

Beth Doherty (16), from Dublin, addressed her comments directly to the politicians, reminding them they had the power to make real change and warning them it was in their own interests to do so.

"By the time any of us are old enough to be in power, it will be too late," she said. "But in a few years we will be voters and we will remember who fought for our planet and who stood and let it burn."

Theo Cullen Mouze (16), from Clare Island, Co Mayo, rejected the Taoiseach's words at the launch of the Climate Action Plan in June. "He said it would 'nudge' people towards action. If your house was on fire, would you nudge people to the door?"

Molly Mercier Redmond, a Junior Cert student from North Wicklow Educate Together, shook off politicians' praise, declaring it "hypocrisy of the highest level".

"You, our Government, have caused me and thousands others to give up our teenage years because you couldn't do your jobs correctly," she said.

Ruby Cowdell (10), from the 'No Planet B' club, in Naas, Co Kildare, referred to Blackrock College and its request to parents to keep their sons in class and engage in some symbolic dimming of lights.

"Is it better to sit in the school in the dark and learn about history or come here and make history?" she asked.

Similar events, organised by networks of secondary school students and supported by teachers, parents, third-level students, trade unions, academics, environmental groups and NGOs took place all around the country as part of a global wave of climate strikes as world leaders prepare to meet in New York for a United Nations emergency climate summit on Monday.

The Taoiseach, who will be among them, insisted he was listening and would do all necessary to implement the Climate Action Plan.

"The fact that so many people, particularly young people, want us to do that and are sending us that message really spurs me and the Government on," he said.

In Limerick around 500 strikers marched through the city centre where organiser, Saoirse Exton (14) pointed out that the very ground they walked on was at risk.

"If we can't change anything, it's the end of our world as we know it. One million species of animals and plants are at risk of extinction. Limerick will flood, Venice will disappear," she said.

Several thousand marched in Cork, including Rachel Kingston who was missing a whole day of school having travelled from Ballyduff, Co Waterford.

"When we look back on this day we are not going to be thinking about missing a day of school. We are going to thinking that we turned up for a great cause," she said.

In Drogheda, Lucy O'Gorman, from Slane, Co Meath, took all four of her children out of school. "If kids can't make adults see it is their world they are destroying, then no one else can," she said.

Back in Dublin, one adult was selected to address the crowd. It left Suzie Cahn, mother-of-four and life-long environmentalist from Glenealy, Co Wicklow, emotional.

"It's the pride at seeing these young people do today what I have tried to do all my life and it's also the sorrow that we did not achieve what was necessary and have left the job to them," she explained.

This generation might be the one to make a difference, she said. "There's more of them. It was a lonely road when I was trying to speak out. It's not so lonely anymore."

Irish Independent

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