Students from Gonzaga College SJ and Belvedere College SJ have been taking part in two recent ‘Fridays for Future’ demonstrations outside Leinster House. On Friday 1st February, a group of 17 Transition Year students from Gonzaga attended the event, accompanied by Ms Siobhán McNamara, Ms Elisabeth Clarke and Mr David Keenahan. On Friday 1st March, 10 Fifth Year students went to the demonstration, again accompanied by Ms Siobhán McNamara and Ms Elisabeth Clarke. On both occasions we were joined by Green Party Leader and Gonzaga past pupil Eamon Ryan TD.
The peaceful demonstrations are part of an international campaign by young people, also known as Climate Strike, which was started by schoolgirl Greta Thunberg in Sweden. The aim of the movement is to show politicians that young people are concerned about climate change and to demand immediate action. The demonstrations take place on Friday lunchtimes and have been gathering momentum in Dublin since they began in late 2018.
“As a Jesuit school we encourage all members of our community to be men and women for and with others. Our students and staff are protesting not only out of concern for their own futures, but also because climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable and disadvantaged communities worldwide and we want to advocate for them,” says Siobhan McNamara.
Participation in ‘Fridays for Future’ is coordinated in Gonzaga by the Green Schools committee. They have worked on several themes over the years including litter and waste, energy, water, transport, and biodiversity and have received five green flags, according to Siobhan. She says that recent activities have included installing new bicycle parking, selling reusable mugs and water bottles, and planting a new hedgerow on school grounds. “Our current theme is Global Citizenship: Litter and Waste. Participation in activities such as ‘Fridays for Future’ encourages our students to think globally, to realise that their actions have an impact, and to speak out on behalf of those who can’t.”
Belvedere students have take part in nine events for climate action the first of which took place on Wednesday December 5th with members of Dáil Eireann in Buswell’s Hotel. Fifteen Belvedere students spoke with a wide variety of TD’s that day.
One of the organisers of the event Oisín Coughlan, Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland and former Belvedere School Captain, helped orgnanise the students and parliamentarians into smaller discussion groups. Students had come in their own time on that Wednesday, according to Belvedere teacher Michael Grehan, who is co-coordinating the climate action work in Belvedere. “And some of them later went for lunch, came back to Buswells, and continued their consultations for most of the afternoon! Several of them mailed me afterwards to say it was a very interesting experience,” says Michael.
Belvedere’s other Climate Actions involved attending eight of the ‘Fridays For Future’ events in which Fourth and Fifth Year students took part – “even a small number of them during the Mid-term break,” he added.
More students from Gonzaga and Belvedere are planning to take to the streets again this Friday, as the Climate Strike action gains momentum weekly both in Ireland and around the world.
‘Fridays for Future’: What the students say:
“I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the protest outside the Dáil because it showed me that I’m not the only person who feels that the environment is important for our future and that more needs to be done by both governments and individuals to save the only Earth we have. As many of the signs said, there is no plan B. I hope to see you and other students on the 15th at the Dáil again.”
Cormac Donnelly (Gonzaga)
“I elected to do this Protest the second I heard about it because I am very interested in climate action. I am a member of the green schools and want to try to see the world get to a place where it isn’t so dependent on fossil fuels. I found the protest interesting and would definitely do it again if asked. I would love to do anything that I can for what is such a pressing issue in the world at the moment. I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Donal O’Malley (Gonzaga)
“I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to show my support for the climate action movement. I thought the experience was very positive and passers by were very supportive.”
Cillian Madigan (Gonzaga)