Carbon tax divides activists outside Leinster House as budget sinks in

Carbon tax divides activists outside Leinster House as budget sinks in

Tuesday’s budget was described as “unprecedented” in “unprecedented times” by the Minister for Finance.

There was agreement outside Leinster House with such a statement, but for those camped outside the Parliament’s gates, the major crisis Ireland is facing is not Brexit, but the planet.

A protest outside the gates of Dáil Eireann, part of the Extinction Rebellion week of action, saw about a hundred climate activists settle in for the day, blocking the road, lying on yoga mats, playing the guitar, and at one point singing Amazing Grace as Gardai looked on.

Paschal Donohoe’s major announcement this year, apart from Brexit and all the contingencies that come with a possible no-deal, were the new carbon taxes.

Much debated, the new charge will see the price of carbon increased by six euro per tonne, applied from midnight on Tuesday to auto fuels, but the increase to other fuels will be delayed until May 2020 – after the winter.

Extinction Rebellion have been clear that they are not aligned to any political group, and allow for many different views towards their one shared goal of stopping climate change, and among those camped on Kildare Street, a diverse range of opinions on the new carbon levies were debated.

“From chatting to people, the majority of people I speak to are not in support of it,” Paul McCormack-Cooney said.

Protesters outside Leinster House (Niall Carson/PA)
Protesters outside Leinster House (Niall Carson/PA)

“We’re looking for a just transition, and we don’t trust this government to set up the mechanisms for carbon tax that will be just.

“In my situation, I rent, I have an oil tank in the back, nothing I can do about it, and as the price increases over the years and I’m going to be stuck with that and I’m not in a position to change that.

“There’s so many people in a situation like that, farmers will be hit hard with that and we’re trying to incentivise farmers to change the way we deal with agriculture, to move away from beef, and if they’re getting stung by carbon tax there’s no way they can do that.

“By and large, I’d say most people are against it, but we have no one opinion on it.”

Ciara Parsons, from Galway,  who travelled to the capital for the protest, says she felt the carbon tax should be higher.

“It seems low, it could be higher as we want to make it more inconvenient,” she said.

“I know some people can’t afford it, but I think it should be a priority, and a bit higher and a bit more drastic.

“Companies should be paying the highest, I don’t know a huge amount about it but I thought the rate was quite low in the current crisis, but the wider population should be involved in it.”

John O’Shea from Tipperary said the Government is using Brexit as a distraction.

“I can live small, but I know people are addicted to consumption, it might put people off being more mindful of the environment, they’ll see it as another thing they have to pay out for, and put them off,” he said.

“Everyone keeps talking about the seriousness of Brexit, but this is a much more serious problem.

“The Government is always talking about the economy, we should be encouraging people not to waste, we need to look beyond this, it’s that serious now.

“If you really look into this, it’s proven that climate change is going to have a bigger impact than Brexit.”

Peter Lucey said he is in favour of the carbon tax increase, and called it a “necessary evil”.

“There are different views on it, but I’d be in favour of any way that makes the biggest environmental impact but is just in doing so.”

Later in the evening, after several requests to move from their makeshift camp, Garda public order units moved in and removed protesters from Kildare Street in order to let TDs leave the Dáil at about 7.30pm.

Protesters chanted: “Gardai, we love you, we’re doing this for your children too,” as they were carried away and a blockade erected for cars to leave peacefully from the Parliament.

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