Thursday 5 December 2019

'I'm sick and tired of excuses about climate change' - teenagers turn tables on TDs by calling them on to the streets

Climate: Demand for genuine action on environment as school students again stage mass strikes

Lucy Sky Dunne. Picture: Collins
Lucy Sky Dunne. Picture: Collins

Caroline O'Doherty

Two weeks ago, TDs invited young climate activists into the Dáil chamber to share their views on climate change.

Yesterday, the teenagers turned the tables on the TDs and invited them to the forum they have made their own - the streets.

But they didn't want the politicians to share views - they wanted them to show action.

"We are taking action. Join us," urged Reuben Murray, from Mountrath Community School in Co Laois.

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"It doesn't have to be like this. We don't have to be pitted against each other. You can decide you are going to work with us. It's all of us against a problem and the problem is climate change."

Reuben's was one of many passionate speeches delivered by school strikers in Dublin who gathered, with some irony, at the plinth of the statute erected in Kildare Place to William Conyngham Plunket, pioneer in teacher training and one-time commissioner for education.

Similar scenes, speeches and passion were evident at more than a dozen locations around the country and in hundreds of cities across the world as the fourth global climate strike took place.

This one was staged a day after the European Parliament declared a climate emergency and three days before the start of yet another make-or-break UN climate summit.

The sense of a clock ticking was almost palpable, not just on climate change but on the patience of youth.

"I'm sick and tired and scared of the excuses," said Brooke Dwyer, from Sion Hill School in Dublin, who took part in the youth assembly a fortnight ago.

She read out the 10 demands presented to Government, warning those in power that the demands were real and their participation was not to be used as a PR exercise.

Conor Slattery, from Blackrock College, took aim at corporations for their "profit before planet" ethos and the "lip service" they paid to green-conscious consumers.

"I should be in school where my only fear is whether I finish my homework," he said.

"Instead I am bound by moral obligation to the planet and genuine fear about what will happen if I do not do my part."

Blackrock College was criticised during the last global day of action for expressing frustration with the strikes.

Conor said afterwards there had been a lot of reflection since: "We're fining anyone who turns up by car €2 today to use the car park and other actions are taking place.

"The school didn't want a situation where any student felt it was obligatory to leave class. For me, I feel it is, and the school's OK with that."

In both Dublin and Cork, there were calls on Government to put a stop to the Shannon and Cork LNG (liquid natural gas) projects which, if developed, will rely on fracked gas from the United States.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was lampooned in many placards, his recent comments about the potential "benefits" of climate change earning him some comical depictions.

Rebecca Hegarty (20), from Carlow and currently in college in Dún Laoghaire, had Photoshopped him into a scene from 'The Simpsons', taking the place of Principal Skinner, famed for musing whether he was out of touch with the young people in his care before concluding he was fine and it was the young people who were out of touch.

"My issue with the Taoiseach is that he always seems to have other priorities when this is absolutely urgent," she said.

She said she was fed up with the "cut-and-paste" responses from politicians.

"I've written to a lot of TDs in the main parties and you get the same answer back - they literally have copied and pasted their replies from one standard response."

Numbers were smaller but still in their hundreds so it didn't impress when gardaí moved to direct them away from the Dáil gates, citing safety as traffic whizzed by.

"They want to talk to the adults," said Molly Redmond from North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School. "Let them talk to us. We are the voice, we are the power."

Irish Independent

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