“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to Fly by those nets.” 
James Joyce

Northern Irish pupils are right to go on strike for the climate

Northern Irish pupils are right to go on strike for the climate

Pupils across Northern Ireland are planning on joining others around the world by going on strike from school to protest government inaction on climate change. While adults scold from the sidelines, children have been calling on their governments to protect their futures.

A UK-wide strike has been called for this coming Friday 15 February and there are plans for an even bigger one being held worldwide on 15 March.

Northern Ireland may not have a functioning Assembly right now, but that makes it all the more important that we encourage each other to be political in different ways. Stormont’s climate record is atrocious (remember RHI?) so it’s no wonder people are looking for alternative ways of forcing change.

The school strikes are inspired by Greta Thunburg, a 15 year old Swedish student, who first walked out of her class and protested outside the parliament in Stockholm last August against her parents’ and teachers’ wishes.

She had originally refused to go to school at all until the Swedish general elections in September, handing out leaflets that said, “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future” to anyone who would walk past.

Since then she has only been skipping classes on Fridays and it is this that has inspired the so-called ‘Fridays For Future’ protests across the world.

Protests have ranged from huge marches in capital cities to a few pupils standing outside the front gates of their schools. Children have been hitting the streets from Australia to Ghana and now Ireland and the UK are next.

These islands may not have a tradition of school strikes the same way as somewhere like France would have, but that isn’t stopping children getting involved across the country.

"Why learn without a future" (Berlin, 25 January 2019).

"Why learn without a future" (Berlin, 25 January 2019).

Numerous small scale strikes have been happening here since late 2018, but the first country-wide action has been called for Friday 15 February and Northern Ireland is not going to be left out.

The media and national governments have been forced to take notice.

A big aspect to the strikes has been the reactions from schools themselves, with some threatening detentions and even suspension for anyone who goes on strike. Politicians have also been critical, with the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, telling children to be “less activist” ahead of the huge strikes there in November.

However, some schools in Europe have actively encouraged their pupils to explore their political power for the first time and many parents are proud of their initiative.

These mixed messages only go to show how far behind the adults are on this issue, and a common feature of the protests is that the school pupils don’t seem to care what the adults think. After all, young people are going to be the ones living with the consequences of the actions of older generations.

What has been most exciting about these strikes has been the way they are genuinely started by the children themselves.

This has been hard to believe for some adults, with some conspiracy theories being dreamt up about Greta Thunburg’s true motivations to which she responded to in a letter posted on Facebook.

The Belgian environment minister was even forced to resign after she said falsely claimed state agencies had evidence that children’s protests were a set-up.

It is so inspiring that it’s the children who have been able to educate their parents and teachers on something that they should have been learning about properly in school.

The beauty of the Fridays For Future idea is that each strike doesn’t have to be huge on its own, it can be a series of small strikes every week that lead up to something bigger. That is the initial idea for this Friday’s strike, with the momentum then building for a Global Strike called for Friday 15 March 2019.

Whether it’s a march through the streets or small scale protests within the school grounds, it all adds up.

Climate change is already here, and the worst of it will affect all of us. It’s just that young people will be forced to live with the consequences of it for longer. And we should listen to them.


If you have heard of a strike near you, or want to start one yourself, make sure to register it here!

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