Irish voters can expect more than just political candidates knocking on their doors this year ahead of a general election, with activists out canvassing now too.
Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) Ireland have been knocking on voters’ doors since as early as November.
XR is a global movement of activists who have raised awareness about climate change by occupying bridges in London and other major cities around the world.
Celebrities such as REM’s Michael Stipe and Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood have publicly supported the movement.
There is an Irish group too, with branches around the country, who have carried out actions such as occupying O’Connell Bridge and demonstrating outside Dáil Éireann.
Now, members of this group have been knocking on voters’ doors.
“[We have had an] XR canvas, just as people,” said Paul McCormack-Cooney, a member of XR Ireland. “We’re not looking for a vote. We’re not canvassing for a vote. We’re canvassing on the part of the environment.
XR is not canvassing on behalf of any party or candidate, but instead using the campaigning tool as a way to raise further awareness about the environment ahead of a general election.
Mr McCormack-Cooney says the response from the public has been “great”, with people openly discussing their concerns about the environment with them, but explaining that their hands can be tied when it comes to action.
“They [the canvasses] went great,” he said. “The feedback from people was that there are things they can’t do because the Government hasn’t made it possible, like they need their [current petrol or diesel] car and they can’t yet afford an electrical one.”
Mr McCormack-Cooney, who is 40 and a father of two, works in a major pensions firm and joined XR after feeling frustrated about the lack of climate action.
He works in communications in his company and says taking the message about climate to politicians is a major action people can take.
“I would encourage people to talk to their candidates,” he said. “If they feel they can’t communicate about the specific science of it you can go into their constituency office and say: ‘This is what I care about,’ and then ask: ‘What are we doing about it?’
“I always thought I’d get caught on the facts, but I rely now on the IPCC [the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports and the thousands of scientists who show that there is no doubt about this [climate change] anymore.”
A general election must take place before April 2021, when the current Government’s term is up. However, it has been strongly indicated that an election will be held in 2020.