Thousands march through Cork demanding action on climate change

Thousands march through Cork demanding action on climate change
Students during the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade. Pictures: David Keane.

CRIES of 'Listen Leo Listen' echoed on the streets of Cork yesterday as an estimated 5,000 people took to Grand Parade to highlight that radical action is needed to save the planet.

Theresa Rose Sebastian from Wilton, having her say during the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.
Theresa Rose Sebastian from Wilton, having her say during the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.

The fervent crowd was predominantly comprised of young people, who clutched placards emblazoned with slogans such as 'There's No Planet B', 'Smells Like Green Spirit' and 'Our House Is On Fire And We Need To Act'. 

The protest was organised by the Irish Fridays For Future group, which encouraged students to leave school and protest to highlight the ongoing issue and the need for Government, community, and individual action.

Naomi O'Donovan from Turner's Cross and seven-month-old Indie along with Dearbhaile Collins from Inniscarra and five-month-old Fiadh, taking part in the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade. Picture: David Keane.
Naomi O'Donovan from Turner's Cross and seven-month-old Indie along with Dearbhaile Collins from Inniscarra and five-month-old Fiadh, taking part in the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade. Picture: David Keane.

Anna Keyes, aged 15, who was in attendance said it was the previous climate strike on March 15 that sparked her interest in becoming a climate activist:

"I saw other people taking a stand against climate action. 

"Firstly I asked myself why they were striking and I looked further into the movement.

"The government isn’t really doing anything for us. 

"In Ireland, we seem to think we’re invincible and that climate change isn’t an issue that’s going to hit us for another 50-100 years. 

Maeve Mullane and Sarah Scanlon, both from Mallow, at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.
Maeve Mullane and Sarah Scanlon, both from Mallow, at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.

"This couldn’t be further from the truth and seeing the lack of action taken by the government really inspired me to take a stand", she told The Echo.

She implored the government to take real action against climate change, saying:

"The government is full of empty promises at the moment, saying everything needs to change but then they turn around and grant more off-shore drilling. 

Caoimhe Cotter from Mayfield and Shauna Lee from Ballincollig, looking colourful at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.Picture: David Keane.
Caoimhe Cotter from Mayfield and Shauna Lee from Ballincollig, looking colourful at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.Picture: David Keane.

"We need better infrastructure for electric vehicles, we need carbon taxes, we need subsidies on insulation.”

Also attending the strike, along with her fellow activist and beloved greyhound, Robert, was Zoology student, Zoe Doyle.

"I’m actually missing a lecture on conservation to be here today", she said

"I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my education for the planet. 

"There’s no point in getting an education if the Government isn’t listening to the educated."

Intergenerational support was evidently visible at yesterday's strike as older members of the public were also at the strike to show their solidarity.

Students from St Aloysius' Cork, taking part in the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.
Students from St Aloysius' Cork, taking part in the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.

Eileen Lynch Dorr, who was accompanied by her husband Frank was just out of a procedure done on her eye but still managed to attend the protest. 

"We’re doing this for our grandchildren and all future generations,'' she told The Echo.

The march, which began on Grand Parade and moved onto South Mall looping back onto Grand Parade was led by Saoi O’Connor, age 16, from Skibbereen, who has been called “Ireland’s Greta Thunberg”.

She became an environmental activist aged three, promoting Fairtrade products at a local town event:

"I was on my first campaign for human rights and environmental issues at three years old. 

"I was dressed in a homemade banana costume to promote Fairtrade, and I was marching in my town's St Patrick’s Day Parade", Saoi said.

Joe and Fionn McNicholas from Dillon's Cross, at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.
Joe and Fionn McNicholas from Dillon's Cross, at the Cork Climate Strike rally on Grand Parade.

Thirteen years of activism has garnered Saoi serious attention.

When asked how she feels to be hallmarked as a symbol for the climate movement in Ireland Saoi answered:

"I’m not a politician, so I’m not really worried about how people think of me. 

"If I am a symbol and that is helping the message get out that we need action, then I am ok with being a symbol for the movement.”

Following the strikes, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton said:

"I have heard the voices of those protesting today. 

"By being a powerful voice, they are paying testament to the damage that is being done to their inheritance. 

"They have a message for governments but also for every sector of society. 

"Now is the time to take action and protect their future.”

The Government has issued a Climate Action Plan which will implement a number of measures by the end of 2030, but for many of the young people at Friday's strike, change needs to be enacted much quicker.

"What I would call the Climate Action Plan is ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, Saoi said.

"We are here today to do what is always the job of the young people which is, to tell the truth, and we are going to tell them that they are naked."

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