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Fridays for Future climate activist Saoirse Exton (16) is calling for younger people to be involved in the conversation on climate justice through the right to vote.

Planet Before Profit was the webinar held by People Before Profit Clare and Limerick where four keynote speakers from both counties delivered their views on climate change. The meeting was chaired by Lisdoonvarna’s Theresa O’Donohoe, who joined the socialist party three years ago and has been an avid climate activist for ten years.

Introducing the young activist from O’ Briensbridge, Theresa said that the Fridays for Future climate action strikes organised by Saoirse have really opened up a conversation on climate action, particularly with older generations. Saoirse, who’s first strike took place on March 1, 2019, outside the Limerick 2030 building spoke about the link between engagement and climate action.

“Young people have been sidelined as they cannot vote. I believe that they should be allowed to vote at the age of 16. This is something I am looking to push for through the National Youth Council of Ireland. Without climate justice you cannot have climate action,” the Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh TY student stated.

Saoirse was selected as one of only 14 young people across the world to partake in the inaugural C40 Global Youth and Mayors forum. She was also elected Quality Officer of the Irish Second Level Students Union in May 2020 as well as participating as a delegate to the RTÉ Youth Assembly in the Dáil where students issued a number of recommendations for the Government to follow in order to tackle the climate crisis.

An issue Saoirse feels strongly about is climate justice, which she defines as “listening to all ages, people, religions and cultures”. On September 20, 2019, 1,000 people took to the streets. Since then, strikes have been curtailed. “The pandemic and the importance of schools has made the organisation of strikes very difficult in recent months. School is such an important stage in all our lives and is very short. We have lost so many people to exams and college, but it’s essential that we get back out onto the streets”.

In having a vote at 16, Saoirse feels that young people will be more actively engaged in politics and how the world works. For her, “the climate strike movement has initiated an inter-generational movement of people looking to step up.” She highlighted that young people need to actively voice their opinion and that the current voting age is side-lining youth engagement. She looks forward to returning to her activist duties. “Climate striking has left a legacy,” she concluded.

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