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Climate protests: ‘Our students are just not getting leadership'

March 29th, 2019 11:50 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Students at Schull Community College show their support for the climate change protests in an event sanctioned by their school.

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As students took to the streets last week for the ‘School Strikes for Climate Action’, councillors called on the government to show leadership by establishing a standalone department to tackle climate change.

At a meeting of the local authority last week, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) got unanimous support from councillors for his motion and he highlighted the march undertaken by secondary school students around the country – and the world.

‘These 12-18-year-old students are looking for leadership and they’re not getting it and we as politicians are supposed to be leaders in our community, society and in policy making,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

‘We are not showing that leadership in tackling climate change and they’re actually showing us up by showing us what leadership is. According to Leo Varadkar, we are  all a bunch of ‘laggers’ but he’s dead right. We are the worst performers when it comes to climate action, worst performers when it comes to carbon emissions and one of the worst performers when it comes to plastic pollution and the destruction of habitat and biodiversity.’

He pointed out that the Council passed a motion over a  year ago calling for a ban on single use plastics but that there have been no inroads or gain since.

‘We’re not acting, we’re talking and saying a lot, but we’re doing absolutely nothing and these kids are frustrated because it’s their future we are talking about here. I don’t know why we as politicians are burying our heads in the sand. Are we afraid that we will offend someone or lose a few votes?’

Cllr O’Sullivan also referenced the work of Swedish student and activist Greta Thunberg and he pointed out that we are the last generation who can actually stand up and make a change and do something about climate change.

‘I think the establishment of a standalone department  is key and a standalone minister is needed, because at the moment it’s all muddled up in the Department of Communications. 

‘I also want the Council to commend the action of these students who are showing leadership,’ added Cllr O’Sullivan.

Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) described it as a ‘brave motion’ and fully agreed with his colleague that a cabinet minister should be appointed for climate change if they are serious about tackling the issue.

‘The action of the students on March 15th will ring very loud and I commend them for their concern on climate change,’ said Cllr McGrath.

Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said that climate change is the biggest issue facing the country and that it does need to be treated with the gravitas and urgency that is required.

‘Minister Richard Bruton has himself admitted we are way off target for everything so we’re off to a very bad start and we need to get back online. We do need to have a more focused approach to using renewable energy for out industrial and residential needs,’ said Cllr Hayes.

Cllr O’Sullivan thanked councillors for their support to his motion and said it would send a strong message to the government.

‘We need to start acting and not talking,’ urged Cllr O’Sullivan.

County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said the Council will write to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ask him that a minister be assigned to a portfolio on climate change.

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