Seasoned Irish climate campaigners ‘spurred on’ by climate strikes


March 15th, 2019

Today, over 1,750 climate strikes will take place in some 110-odd countries – Ireland included – inspired by actions of one 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg.

This is the same Greta
Thunberg who was recently vetoed by European political parties, EPP and ALDE,
from giving a speech at the European Parliament. Fine Gael is a member of the
EPP, and Fianna Fail a member of ALDE.

Given Fine
Gael’s Euro-party position, it is curious that the Taoiseach is “inspired and enthused
about this week’s climate strike. Is he inspired and enthused enough to show
real political commitment to dealing with climate change?

For those of us working on
global environmental issues, Ireland’s political incoherency on climate change
has been source of embarrassment. While other EU countries at least make
political token efforts – and some cases take real action on climate, Ireland
appears to be examining its fingernails in the hope it won’t be noticed.

Despite our national procrastination, it is been impressive to follow Ireland’s climate movement catapulting itself into the national agenda.

Following years of groundwork from seasoned climate campaigners and scientists, the findings of the Citizens Assembly, things are finally changing, spurred on by the weekly school climate strike and Extinction Rebellion movements.

Young climate campaigners are meeting with members of the Seanad, appearing on the Late Late Show and Met Éireann is now issuing internal guidelines on how to talk about extreme weather.

Irish climate activist Saoi O’Connor (c) at Fridays for Future press conference in Europe this week Photo: European Parliament

We’re moving fast. But
while it’s imperative that we get our climate affairs in order at home, we have
a duty, and a talent, for making a difference globally. Ireland punches above
its weight worldwide on many issues – including in peacekeeping, disarmament
and development. Why not climate? Maybe it’s our lack of political coherency at

Ireland has
played the cute hoor – ‘ara sure we’re only small, what difference can we make
–  card for far too long. Our argument on
how our CO2 emissions from cattle farming have less impact than if the cattle
were reared elsewhere has a certain logic to it – but to steal from Upton
Sinclair, this only makes sense from the perspective of someone who’s salary
depends on the production of beef or milk.

A quick search of YouTube turns up a video of Garrett Fitzgerald during a trip to Malta in 2007, where he talks about the
“clear advantage” that small countries have in “coherence of policy-making and
policy implementation” over many large states. “Using that capacity,” he added,
“you can sometimes achieve results disproportionate to your size.”

We not only
have the duty to sort our domestic climate policies and responses, we have the
potential to join forces with other small nations to drive the dramatic changes
needed to achieve future peace, prosperity and wellbeing under the shadow of
global climate change.

I am sure that Leo Varadkar
is aware of the words of his predecessor: “The nature of small states is that
they are more coherent in their decision-making. If you’re a small government,
you can get the people together and decide what to do and do it.”

Taoiseach, we’re standing
by. And if you’re not ready soon, we’re leaving without you.

By Dave Walsh

Dave is an Irish campaigner, policy adviser and multimedia communicator based in Barcelona who has worked on campaigns concerned with the likes of climate, oceans and forest protection, international trade deals and polar scientific research. He also runs the Cold Reality website.

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