Friday, November 23, 2018

Signs of hope by the seaside in Salthill

Irish Current Affairs Blog of the Year 2018 

Coming together to highlight extincition rebellion in Galway

I live in a city which is choking to death because of a lack of imagination, because so many people rely so much on the car. They feel they have no choice.

I see it every day.

The cycle lanes blocked by motorists who cannot imagine that they should even have to share the roads with people who opt to cycle or walk to school in the mornings.

I have seen a road along my daily commute being redesigned over the past year, because so many parents were literally parking up right outside the front door of a primary school.

Instead of anyone challenging them, the easier option was to add new ‘drop off zones’ to the road than ask people to let their children walk or consider leaving their precious cars at home.

I have a friend who works in Mullingar, two hours away. It takes him as long to make the journey across the city as it does to drive from Mullingar to the western fringes every day. He is constantly in despair.

And the solution we are being given is a new ring road. A decade after I wrote a series of reports, researched and costed, for a local newspaper about the huge difference a light rail system would make to a city of just 80,000 souls.

Communting in Galway. Photo: @cosaingalway on Twitter

People get angry, people get stressed, people spend a couple of hours a day stuck in their cars and so few people ever consider buying a bicycle, taking a bus, or walking.

This is at a time when fossil fuels are destroying our planet and we have no idea whether we will even still have petrol in 50 or 100 years.

Our ruling politicians don’t seem to care. They see jobs and publicity coming from a giant ring road as it tears through suburban communities and the long-term future of our planet pales into insignificance when they have elections to fight next year.

In Ireland, we laugh with derision at US President Donald Trump and the way in which he’s so quick to dismiss climate change. As long as he’s reopening the mines or putting trucks back on the roads, who cares?

We celebrate the budget airline which announces millions of extra bums on seats every year, instead of asking whether people really need to fly to Berlin or Birmingham for a stag weekend.

We somehow turn a collective blind eye to the biggest crisis our species has ever seen.

“It was the land that cultivated the people, before the people cultivated the land,” said a wise elder of the Warlpiri people in Australia, recalling simpler times when people felt far more of a connection to the natural world.

They weren’t locked up inside motorised boxes, unable to move, and screaming at other people in motorised boxes because they weren’t able to get to work on time.

Children at the Extinction Rebellion protest in Galway

And yet last weekend in Galway I attended one of the most inspiring events I have been to in years.
About 200 people gathered by the Salthill promenade on a cold November day for a day of action to protest against climate change.

They reminded us that life, or progress, is not just about roads, and factories and air miles, and that, by working together, we can give some hope to our children, that we do not have to carry out untold violence to the planet which sustains us.

It was amazing to see so many political and environmental groups come together to show that people can work together and that so many of us actually care.

The ‘day of action’ was called to highlight the destruction of our planet and the extinction crisis which has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970.

The people of Ireland have huge issues to face in terms of inequality, injustice, homelessness, and the crisis in the health service, but the environmental crisis dwarfs all of them given the catastrophe on the horizon if we don't change.

Calling out the names of extinct aniimals in Salthill 

Imagine what Galway will be like if we build a city bypass, turning a beautiful coastal city into a glorified motorway, only to find out that cars don’t exist in 50 years.

And is an outer bypass really the solution when our over-reliance on the car as a means of getting around is contributing to the destruction of our natural world? Not to mention a childhood obesity epidemic.

It felt like a key moment, as though people were finally waking up to the reality of what faces us on Saturday. It was so refreshing to see rival groups come together with common cause.

After some short, but brilliant, speeches the 200 people gathered on the prom participated in a little direct action which showed great imagination.

People stood in a long line at the seafront and then, one by one, they fell to their feet in memory of so many animals who have been wiped out by human beings and fossil fuels.

Pauline O'Reilly of the Green Party called out the names of animals who are no longer with us and the gesture really brought the gravity of the situation home for the many children in the crowd.

The Salthill event was part of a global day of action, with protests also happening in London, Dublin, Belfast, Cork, and other cities across the world.

It was truly an imaginative display, which brought the message home to the assembled children that modern human life, when motivated by greed and the pillaging of natural resources, is destroying the planet we love.

With the Irish Blog of the Year award last month

It was simple, but effective.

New challenges require new responses and the Extinction Rebellion event was unprecedented in terms of bringing so many groups and individuals together to talk about the daunting global issues we face when the very future of our planet is at stake.

In Salthill on Saturday, a lot of us felt a connection to the people and the planet around us which can never be experienced when you are stuck in traffic inside a car.

The speakers who addressed us like 19th century politicians, standing on top of a wall, told us about the small steps we can all take to combat climate change.

If only our rulers, our leaders, could show the same kind of imagination as the environmentalists did this week in facing up to and highlighting the biggest crisis facing us all.

Ciaran Tierney won the Best Current Affairs Blog in Ireland award in Dublin last month. Find him on Facebook at

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  1. Beautifully written, poignant piece Ciaran. You took great pictures too!

    1. Thanks Pauline. It was a wonderful event and great to see so many different groups and parties working together in the face of the biggest issue of all.

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