The grim reaper is a-comin’: Extinction Rebellion Ireland make waves as week of action begins

The grim reaper is a-comin’: Extinction Rebellion Ireland make waves as week of action begins
Protester Finn Cahn from Wicklow during a Climate Walk by Extinction Rebellion Ireland activists today. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The rebellion was fronted by a pink boat. It was pulled up Kildare Street and its progress was marked by bells and whistles and a rhythm section of drums.

Everybody appeared to be happy but in costume, placards and words there was much emphasis on death. The grim reaper is a-comin’ and this time it’s for real.

So went the opening passage of Extinction Rebellion’s week of action in Dublin city centre shortly after 1pm yesterday.

Somewhere between 400 and 500 rebels were present at the launch of this protest but the organisers are hopefully that the number of recruits will mushroom in the coming days.

The week is to be marked with guerrilla type protests, sit-downs and “dramatic events” in the city centre designed to disrupt and highlight the urgency to address climate change.

The protest got underway at the gates of Leinster House, moved up to Stephen’s Green back down around Merrion Street and came to a halt in Merrion Square.

They dropped missives into the departments of Agriculture and Finance along the way and stopped briefly at the gates of Government buildings to make a public plea to the Taoiseach.

“Leo in your ivory tower, this is called people power,” went one chant.

Another got down to the brass tacks: “Listen, Leo, Listen, eleven years left.” And then, “the seas are rising and so are we.”

From there they drifted down to the square where a man was on a stage with a guitar singing, The Times They Are A Changin’.

Did Bob Dylan know something the rest of us didn’t back in the mid 60s didn’t when he sang in that song, “admit that the waters around you have grown”.

Was he onto the rising oceans well ahead of science?

The week-long protest is happening in about 60 capital cities around the world.

“Tell the truth” is written on the side of the pink boat in Dublin and that’s one of the rebellion’s “demands”.

They are not in mood for requests or aims or positions. As far as they’re concerned, the existential crisis can only be tackled through demands.

In Britain, one of their demands is the setting up of a citizen’s assembly to examine how to tackle climate change.

We’re ahead of the game here, having already done that.

Conor Fallon is a rebel and a student. He has had enough. “You can have all the protests in the world,” he said, standing with a poster at the entrance to Merrion Square.

“We had a citizens assembly and the recommendations there would be sufficient to meet what we want.”

Merrion Square is the GPO of this rebellion. Around a dozen tents have been set up on the lawns inside a gate on the south side of the park.

Some of the rebels will sleep here overnight and it is from this base that the guerrilla actions will be launched across the city centre.

As the singing persisted in the stage outside the park, Laureen Guillery was setting up her tent inside. Beside the tent there was another poster, this one reading: “West Cork Rebels”.

Laureen took the week off work to be here: “There is still a lot of climate change denying which is beyond belief. We have to have a conversation.”

She was also surprised at some reaction in the media preceding the start of the protest.

There were comments that we were a bunch of wasters and hippies. But something has to be done. We’re here to make a change.

The rebellion, a speaker on the stage, pointed out, is all about “love and rage”.

On the love front, another speaker asked everybody to hug the person next to them.

The rage was also expressed, but repeatedly it was insisted that all expression of it will be non-violent.

Today they are scheduled to put on a dramatic event outside government buildings directly after Pascal Donohue’s budget photocall.

The rebellion is expecting arrests during the week, but they have prepared for this. Some have volunteered themselves as “designated arrestables”.

There was also a man walking around in a luminous vest with the legend “legal observer” printed on it.

His task is to keep an eye on all activity and make sure it stays on the right side of the law.

He will also be keeping an eye on the law enforcers to ensure they stay on the right side of the law. As rebellions go, it’s all very civilised and considerate.

But there is no hiding the passion. The protestors draw their moral authority from what they see, with some justification, as an existential crisis.

They claim that the main targets of the protest are government and industry. In reality, they need to awaken the general public if their demands are to be met.

As of now there is no indication that the general public is willing to contemplate the extent of the disruption required to address the climate’s deterioration.

It remains to be seen if protests such as the one taking place this week make any inroads on the public consciousness.

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