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Duncan Stewart and Greta Thunberg RollingNews.ie/Alamy Stock Photo
Dublin City

Greta Thunberg and Duncan Stewart awarded with Freedom of Dublin

Dublin City Councillors approved the nominations at a monthly meeting on 12 June.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 21st 2023, 10:36 PM

CLIMATE ACTIVIST GRETA Thunberg and environmentalist Duncan Stewart have been awarded with the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin.

Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy had put Thunberg forward alongside Stewart to receive the accolade in recognition of their efforts to protect the earth, the first time nominations have been made for work in the area.

A ceremony is taking place at the Mansion House in Dublin this evening. 

Thunberg will not be attending the event in person. Jessica Dunne and Sumaya Ahmed, both from the youth climate strike movement in Ireland, will be speaking on her behalf. 

Stewart and Thunberg will both receive gifts from the Lord Mayor. 

Thunberg will receive a nature-inspired drop pendant comprising three delicate gum nuts suspended from a hand-forged hoop by Irish jeweller Shimara Carlow. 

Stewart will receive Ready to Fly, an elegant form sculpture crafted from 4,000-year-old bog oak by Irish artist Tony Downey. 

“I am honoured to present the Freedom of the City to Duncan Stewart and Greta Thunberg. This award is the highest civic honour Dublin City can bestow,” Conroy said in a statement ahead of the ceremony. 

“It is a privilege for me to confer the freedom on these two very deserving recipients, both of whom I admire greatly for their efforts to help us tackle the most pressing global problem of our time,” she said. 

The historical privileges that come along with the Freedom of the City, which are mostly symbolic in modern times, include being exempt from tax on goods brought through the city gates and permission to graze sheep on College Green and St Stephen’s Green.

More than 80 people have previously received the award, the most recent of whom are campaigner Ailbhe Smyth, cyberpsychology expert Professor Mary Aiken, and Olympian Kellie Harrington.

Other past recipients include Father Peter McVerry, the four members of U2, and Eamon de Valera.

Thunberg

Thunberg, a 20-year-old Swedish environmental activist, is known for her activism on climate issues, calling for world leaders to take action to prevent climate catastrophe.

She started staging Friday protests outside the Swedish parliament during school hours in 2018. Teenagers from around the world followed her lead, leading to an international student movement called Fridays for Future.

She took part in her final school strike earlier this month. 

The campaigner has now graduated from high school and noted that her future Friday activities “technically” will not be school striking. But in a tweet, she vowed to continue protesting, saying: “The fight has only just begun.”

In January, Thunberg was carried away by police in western Germany from the edge of an open coal pit where they demonstrated against the ongoing destruction of a village to make way for the mine’s expansion. 

In February, she made headlines again when she  joined dozens of activists in blocking the entrance to Norway’s energy ministry in Oslo to protest against a wind farm they say hinders the rights of the Sami Indigenous people to raise reindeer in Arctic Norway.

Duncan Stewart

Duncan Stewart is widely known for Eco Eye which aired its final episode on RTÉ in February

He becomes the first environmentalist to receive the honour.

Eco Eye had focused on sustainability and the environment within Ireland and beyond for the past 21 years. 

The show was an early advocate for insulation as a means of energy saving, and the show also drew attention to issues such as water quality, and air borne from fossil fuels.  

It was presented by Stewart from 2002, and more recently by a team of presenters. 

The architect and environmentalist is also well known for his other radio and TV appearances. 

Previously, Stewart has criticised the way climate change is covered by the media.

“Everybody seems to avoid climate change, it’s not good for advertising, its not good for ratings,” Stewart said back in 2014, “The media don’t seem to get it.”

Speaking to The Journal outside the Mansion House this evening, Stewart said he was “totally shocked” to receive the nomination. 

He said he is pleased see Greta Thunberg being awarded.

“I’ve tremendous admiration for her and the work she’s done with the young generation and really inspiring them across the world,” Stewart said. 

He aid he is also pleased to see the environment being given a platform, adding: “I think that at long last, and I mean at long last, the environment is being treated with some respect.” 

Stewart said he doesn’t believe he deserves the award and that “there’s many more people doing much more work than I am to protect our environment”. 

“But just because I’m on television I seem to get the credit.”

In a statement earlier today, Stewart said: “When the Lord Mayor called me and asked me would I accept a nomination for the award, I was really shocked and certainly very honoured.

“I would like to thank the Lord Mayor for what she has done, and Dublin City Council in general.”

Nominations 

The nomination for Stewart and Thunberg were made at a meeting of Dublin City Council’s Protocol Committee earlier this month. 

They were sent forward for approval at the monthly meeting of Dublin City Council on 12 June. 

Following the nominations, a number of councillors and Joan Collins TD wrote a letter to Thunberg asking her to decline the honorary award.

“While we support your work and vision, we fear your nomination is another attempt to ‘greenwash’ the disastrous policies of this Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party government,” they wrote. 

“We do not want to vote to ‘greenwash’ this Government’s inability to provide adequate housing, healthcare, public services or living standards for the people of Ireland. We do not want to vote to ‘greenwash the Government’s refusal to take real and effective climate action,” they said.

They also wrote: “We would ask you to decline this honorary award and support us in the fight to take effective action on climate change and to provide a decent standard of living for everyone on this planet before it is too late.”

Alongside Collins, the letter was signed by Councillors Sophie Nicoullaud, Pat Dunne, Cieran Perry and Dean Mulligan. 

With reporting by Mia Douglas and Press Association 

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