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‘Politicians of today must make the decisions for us to have a future’

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*Kate Harty hands in the Clare PPN’s submission to Clare County Council’s Draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. 

For the average Junior Certificate student once the exams are complete the summer holidays represents a time to relax and recuperate but Kate Harty is not your atypical teenager.

At the age of sixteen, she was not afraid to call out elected members of Clare County Council when questioning them in April. “We’re here to talk about something called climate change. Have you heard of it? It doesn’t seem like it, because if you had heard of climate change, then surely you would be doing everything in your power to prevent it by now. If you have heard of climate change, then surely school children wouldn’t need to be here to remind you about the subject. We are secondary school students, not politicians, nor scientists”.

Eleanor Dagnell-Wise started the Fridays for Future Protest in Clare, standing afoot of The Height monument in Ennis on her own in February. Soon, others followed and Kate has become an ever-present part of their demonstrations.

“If you think about it, you can chat to your friends later or even on a Monday to Thursday, quite often my friends come and join me on the Height for the big strikes. The environmental issue isn’t going away in a hurry and it won’t do unless we go to the Height and I’d like a future, yes I do miss out on some classes I enjoy and talking to my friends on Fridays but I get to talk to them from Monday to Thursday, it balances out and environmental protection is worth putting in that one day of striking for every week”.

Respecting the environment is nothing new to the Ennis teen, her family are trying to have zero waste in the household. Féidhlim her father, is the Director of FH Wetland Systems Ltd, her mother is a homeopath and indeed her grandmother, Natasha Harty of East Cork has been active on environment protection, “I get it from multiple generations” she told The Clare Echo of her passion.

Over the summer months, she has studied Clare County Council’s Draft Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. She has worked with Clare PPN and 27 other environmental groups in the county on a submission to the strategy. “The original draft was basing on social and economic change which was good but it didn’t factor in the environment half as much as I wanted it to and as we expected it to because it is reaching crisis point. Our own submission was to try get the environment into that strategy”.

Since addressing councillors in April, the Colaiste Muire student admitted to being disappointed with their actions on climate change since but praised them for the first four motions of the new term being related to the matter. Kate spoke up during the Ennis MD local election hustings but revealed it is unlikely her name will appear on a ballot paper in the future. “I’ve thought about it a lot, I find work best when I’m outside the whole arena of politics because I find it much easier to work that way. I’d probably work alongside politicians or decision makers but I don’t think I’d go for the elections myself”.

“It’s not our generation who are going to go into politics and change it, the generation above say my parent’s generation have to make the changes within politics for us to have a future. The time frame is too small that it will be too late if it’s us going into politics and changing it”.

Scrolling through Snapchat and Instagram or binging on Netflix would have been an option in the final few weeks before Kate begins Transition Year, instead she made the most of her time in an attempt to create the best future for Co Clare.

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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