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'Be the hero, not the villain': Protesting students wrote to Taoiseach urging him to take climate action

Thousands of students attended climate change demonstrations across the country in March.

Image: Rollingnews.ie

SOME OF THE thousands of students who took part in climate change demonstrations earlier this year wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, urging him to be the take the necessary steps to safeguard their future. 

At the time of the protests, secondary school students said they were taking a stand and asked Varadkar to stand with them, accusing the government of not doing enough so far to combat climate change.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show a number of correspondents received during the time of the protests in March, urging the Taoiseach and the government to take decisive action. 

On Friday 15 March, thousands of students took to the streets for climate change demonstrations, calling on the government to take decisive action on the issue.

The marches in Dublin and Cork formed part of a global movement initiated by 16-year-old schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who began protesting outside Swedish Parliament last August.

Thunberg has since appeared before the EU and addressed crowds at recent demonstrations in London.

Ireland’s record on climate change has been poor in recent times. Late last year, the country was ranked the worst in Europe for its performance in taking action on climate change. 

“Existing climate mitigation efforts will not enable Ireland to achieve either its EU 2020 or 2030 targets domestically,” the report noted.

Prior to the protests in Dublin, Varadkar said he supported the school students going on strike

He told the Dáil: “The fact that young people are taking action, protesting and are going to strike and take a break from school on 15 March is good.

“They are children, pupils and students telling all the adults in all parties to get our act together and to do more about climate change because it is their future that is in jeopardy.”

‘Be the hero’

Varadkar received a number of correspondence from students around the time of the protests, as well as from other interested parties.

One second-level pupil – using the subject line “students in need with your help” – wrote that Ireland had signed up to the Paris Agreement but was still failing in its commitments on climate change. 

“Along with many other hopeful students across the nation and Europe I will protest on Friday 15 March along with my friends [...] and I can only hope that you will make an appearance also,” the student wrote.

I’m only a teenager and although I wish I could I can’t save the world. However, with your help I think we could really try… I beg you Mr Varadkar you’re our only hope. Be the hero of this situation not the villain.

‘What are you doing about it?’

Another student wrote to Varadkar on the day of the protest.

They said: “Ireland has not been achieving the goals it has set for itself in the 2015 Paris agreement and if the government doesn’t take action now, we will continue to fail to meet our goals.”

The student also pointed out the effects inaction would have on their peers into the future.

“Our generation is the generation that will live in the ruins of the world created by the climate crisis and our governments are not doing anything about it,” they said.

As Hippocrates once said ‘desperate times call for desperate measures… What are YOU doing about it?

‘You have the power to change this’

Further correspondence received by the Taoiseach at the time of the climate change protests in March expressed support for the students taking action. 

One wrote: “Young people are fighting for their future. They more than any of us will have to live with the deadly effect of the climate crisis. Many of your colleagues were keen to praise these young people to pose for photo opportunities, yet the government’s refusal to pass the Climate Emergency Bill is telling.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, please take action.

Another said that they understood the students’ wish to strike and demanded “immediate action” from the government in response.

“Our children have spoken,” they said. “The world’s children are standing up for their future… The people are dismayed at the state of the ecological situation in Ireland, and the world at large… this madness has to stop. Or we will all pay a grave price.”

One person who wrote to Varadkar said the Taoiseach had made a “remarkably wise decision” to support the striking students while another said they were “grateful” for his support. 

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Sean Murray

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