Climate activists interrupt Minister Bruton at forestry industry event

Published by Niall Sargent on

July 8th, 2019

Members of Extinction Rebellion Ireland interrupted a speech by the Minister for Climate Action at a forestry industry event this morning to outline the group’s opposition to a conifer plantation led forestry model.

Two protestors interrupted Richard Bruton’s speech at a Forestry Industries Ireland’s conference at the Botanic Gardens this morning, unfurling a banner that called for “no more Sitka”.

The Irish XR branch is critical of the non-native coniferous species that make up the majority of forestry in Ireland that is among the lowest in Europe at around 11 per cent. The European average is 33.5 per cent.

Conifer species are the dominant species in Ireland, representing just over 71 per cent of the stocked forest area while broadleaves make up almost 29 per cent.

The group instead calls for more native woodland planting and better engagement with local communities where large forestry projects are planned.

The banner and activists were quickly removed, after which five XR Ireland members proceeded to stand up in turn and outline their concerns with both Ireland’s forestry model and the Government’s reaction to the climate crisis to date.

Mr Bruton sat down during the interruption that was met with a rowdy reaction from several members of the audience, some of whom directly challenged the statements put forward by the activists on Ireland’s planting of native trees.

XR Ireland member Sue Breen told The Green News that the Government’s plan on climate is “not nearly sufficient for what we need”.

In terms of forestry, she said that the planned increase in forestry planting in Ireland over the coming years is “pathetic” and will leave us still well behind our European neighbours.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of State for Forestry Andrew Doyle TD said that the State has a target to reach to plant 8,000 hectares per annum.

COFORD recently found that we need to plant a minimum of 15,000ha per year up to 2030 to sustain our forest estate’s climate change benefits, among other uses in energy and construction.

In its plans to meet the biodiversity emergency, Ms Breen added said, the Government must also be mindful that the current monoculture conifer plantation model doesn’t support biodiversity.

“To have industry here portraying [the conifer model] as something that is really positive for the environment is really quite shabby,” she added.

The international Extinction Rebellion movement began last summer in the UK and rose to prominence in November 2018 when thousands of activists blocked London bridges, disrupted traffic, and glued themselves to public buildings.

The movement uses non-violent civil disobedience, Extinction Rebellion founding member Roger Hallam told The Green News, with the disruption to daily life paling in comparison to what’s coming down the line without urgent action from world leaders.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland protest at Department for Climate Action July 2019 Photo: Kayle Crosson

In an ongoing action this afternoon, several members of the Irish branch of the movement have glued themselves to the Department of Climate Action building in Dublin to protest against the recent blocking of a Bill to limit the issuing of new fossil fuel licenses.

Holding photographs of their children, nieces and nephews, five activists have superglued their hands to the doors of the Department and say they are willing to risk arrest in order to “ensure the children of this country will have a future”.

After situating themselves in front of the Department at approximately 2:45pm, members of the Garda Road Policing Unit arrived to inquire about the protest. At the time of publication, no arrests have been made and the protesters remain in place.

The Climate Emergency Measures Bill, which the Dail has twice voted to progress to Third Stage, would end the issuing of new licences to explore for oil and gas in Irish waters.  

Mr Bruton sent a letter to Bill author Brid Smith TD last week saying that he was “unable to recommend to Government that it issues a money message” for the Bill.

A money message is a State recommendation signed by the Taoiseach approving of legislation that will cost the State money. Unless approval is received, a Bill cannot progress to Committee Stage.

The letter said the Government’s opinion that the Bill will not reduce Ireland’s emissions and will instead “ensure that Ireland must import all its fossil fuels” in the transition to a low carbon society.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London