Climate Strike: thousands protest over climate inaction

Published by Kayle Crosson on

September 20th, 2019

Thousands of students across the country took to the streets today as part of the global school strike movement urging the Government to adopt immediate and effective climate policy.

The main march in Ireland took off from the Custom House in Dublin at midday, moving through the city centre to Merrion Square, where thousands of students gathered for a rally outside Government buildings. 

Signs made by the schoolkids urged the Government to take action, telling powerholders that “you’re burning our future” and that “nobody’s allowed ruin my future but me”.

The youthful protesters’ chanted for immediate steps to be taken by our politicians to stop fossil fuel extraction and to push for “system’s change, not climate change”.

The country remains well off-track in meeting its 2020 and 2030 targets according to EPA data and the 2019 Climate Change Performance Index released last December singled out Ireland as the worst-performing country in Europe for addressing climate change for the second consecutive year. 

Climate crisis ‘long longer abstract’

Beth Doherty, one of the students involved in organising the march, said that students are back in the streets to try and get people in power “to wake up and do their jobs and save the only planet we can survive on”. 

“This strike boils down to us wanting to have a future, to me being able to get to 30 without having passed the point of no return for saving our planet,” she added.

“The climate crisis is no longer abstract, it isn’t far-off glaciers or however many species have died. It is right here, right now and it will affect every single one of our lives no matter who you are, where you come from, or what political office you hold.” 

Reading a poem to the crowd, Lucy Holmes said that the students “rise like the never-ending tide and grow tall like the trees” and “will keep on shouting until the whole world hears our pleas”

“How do we survive in this world covered by fear, know that we need change and that change begins here,” she said, concluding her poem.

Students were joined by parents and other adults who support the movement, as well as many civil society groups, environmental NGOs and trade unions.

Today’s strike comes six months on from the first international action in March, which saw over 10,000 students from across the country protest in front of the Dail. 

Climate strike in Dublin September 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent
Climate strike in Dublin September 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

Cross-country support

Alongside major rallies in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, almost 70 local communities took place to support student-led groups such as Fridays for Future Ireland and the Schools Climate Action Network.

In Blessington, for example, students from local schools marched through the town, with local businesses sharing support on social media. At 11am, church bells rang out 11 times to show solidarity with the students.

Áine O’Gorman, an activism support coordinator for Stop Climate Chaos who was worked closely with students in the build-up to the day of action, praised the level of support seen across the country.

“From students like Theo Mouze travelling from Clare Island to retired women mobilising in Dundrum, thousands of people of all ages and occupations will be on the streets across Ireland supporting the students’ call for strong climate action,” she said.

Weekly strikes are held across the country, and according to Shona Edge, a student from Temple Carrig in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, they will “only continue”. 

“If we do not point out the fatal flaws in the government’s approach on climate action, who will?” she said. “We want to disrupt the system that disrupts our futures,” she added. 

The US is expected to see 800 protests across the country, with New York’s protest led by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as the city prepares to host the United Nations Climate Action Summit next week. 

Greta started the student climate strike movement last year when she began protesting on the steps of her parliament, demanding that her government do more to address the climate crisis. 

Wider Support

Fridays for Future, one of the organising group behind the youth climate uprising in Ireland, said that while the movement will remain youth-led they “really want adults to get behind us and support the climate movement at this strike”.

Numerous environmental and climate NGOs, together with religious groupings, civil society groups, aid organisations and trade unions have all pledged their support to the youth movement.

Many Irish universities and academics have also outlined their support, with UCD and DCU both openly encouraging staff and students to come out and join solidarity marches on campus.  

In addition, several Irish academics have signed an international open letter “wholeheartedly” supporting the global climate strike movement whose concerns rest on “solid, incontrovertible evidence” of a climate breakdown.

Speaking to The Green News last night, Dr Joseph Curtin, a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council, said that our kids are “looking us in the eye and saying ‘you need to act’.”

“Their whole lives are going to be affected by what we’re doing to the atmosphere and the climate and what we’re doing to biodiversity,” he said.

Climate strike in Dublin September 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

List of demands 

Actions demanded by Irish young protesters can be found on a few different websites, but all sing the same tune: Ireland must do its part in a global effort to radically reduce emissions. 

A week before the first international school strike in March, students met with politicians to map out what policy changes they are seeking. 

The Irish movement is asking the Government to communicate the severity of the climate crisis to the public and to build school curriculums that convey it to students of all ages. 

A transition to a carbon-neutral Ireland must be “socially fair” and stronger regulations on corporations directly responsible for causing the climate crisis should be implemented. 

Students also want to see policy moves that will deeply reduce emissions from the agricultural that currently accounts for one-third of the state’s total emissions footprint. 

The movement is asking the Government to enact all the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change and to implement a Green New Deal for Ireland. 

The state should also ensure that once students have left school they can have “livelihoods that don’t damage the Earth”. 

Finally, students have demanded that all fossil fuel supplies be left in the ground, that no new fossil fuel infrastructure construction take place, and that Ireland has 100 per cent renewable electricity supply by 2030. 

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.