It was the Wicklow youth and community who first declared it to be an Emergency in Spring 2019, and invited all politicians to join us in declaring, and convene an Assembly of all citizens, young and old, to propose the laws needed from our government. The Dáil did declare Emergency and committed to convene an Assembly at the time, and eventually (after a COVID delay) called 2 assemblies in 2022 – 1 for adult citizens (which has made its report) and this 1 for citizens under 18.
This is the first time citizens under 18 have had a voice. They have used it powerfully to tell government exactly what they want and need for a liveable healthy natural future in Ireland.
Some of the children who declared that first Emergency in Burnaby Park, Greystones in 2019 also volunteered among the 44 members of the Youth Assembly in 2022. These youth activists are not stopping anytime soon until we have formed the meitheal and restored and protected our Biodiversity. Its challenging but necessary to ensure a safe, healthy and natural future for life in Wicklow and in Ireland. An urgent Joint Oireachtas Committee review is the next official step.
“Delgany Tidy Towns are incredibly proud of our future leaders from Delgany, Greystones and Co. Wicklow”, said Keith Scanlon, Biodiversity Officer with Delgany Tidy Towns.
“Marlie, Síofra, Olwyn and Lucas were our local Greystones-Delgany Assembly members and advisors. These young citizens have called on Government, media and businesses to implement 58 Actions now to fix Ireland’s Biodiversity Emergency. We congratulate the 44 amazing young leaders who compiled this powerful report and all young people who made submissions online and in Greystones Library’s suggestion box.
“ Now we are asking everyone to please read this report, answer the call, and stand with our young people again. Review how many of the 58 Actions we can try to pilot in our own local community to lead the country by example again.
“The Assembly held 2 intense weekend meetings in October 2022 in Glencree and in Killarney. We were delighted to be local hosts and guides for the Assembly families when they came to Glencree and show them the rich rivers, woods, bogs, wildlife, insect biodiversity and citizen science of Wicklow. Thanks to Greystones Library team, Donal in Local Authorities Waters program, NPWS, and Wicklow Co Co for the help.
Politicians of all parties and independents have voiced their support for the Wicklow youth and communities to continue to lead on Climate and Biodiversity action. Please also tell your politicians that you appreciate that and will be watching to see they follow through quickly and seriously.
“Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh sí! Support our young people and they will lead the future.”
In their own Words – from our Wicklow Youth:
Fourteen-year-old Olwyn from Greystones wants to plant native trees each year, and tie it in with the number of births. “That way we will have a forest for 2023, 2024 etc. This will give everyone a forest to explore near them. The impact will be immediate but it will build our futures.” She wants people to listen to children and teens. “That our voices are heard and respected. That people see we have more to offer.”
Thirteen-year-old Síofra from Delgany, wants the media to cover the detailed status of the biodiversity emergency all the time until we have reversed biodiversity loss. “The Irish public proved it does work with the COVID emergency but why we are not doing it [yet] for the biodiversity emergency.
“More people would be aware and act if they saw the [Biodiversity] numbers on TV and in newspapers every day and were told what they can do to help until it is fixed.”
Politicians across the spectrum pledged their support for our future leaders
Green Party TD Steven Matthews said our young people have done an outstanding job in this report. “They understand the very real damage done to our environment and the urgent action that’s required to save nature for our children and future generations. Politicians across all parties need to step up and act even when it’s not popular. I am fully supportive of our wonderful Children and Young Persons Assembly and will do all I can to protect nature, environment and our climate for now and the future.”
Jennifer Whitmore, TD, and Social Democrats spokesperson for Climate, Biodiversity, Children and Young People stressed that “ Young voices are incredibly important when it comes to our environment – it is their world that will be most impacted by inaction in the present. The recommendations from this report are far reaching and what is needed to address our biodiversity crisis. Government must listen to these voices and ensure that their recommendations are translated into actions urgently.”
Greystones Councillor and Chair of Wicklow’s Climate and Biodiversity Action (CABA) Policy Committee Lourda Scott has described the Children and Young Person’s report on Biodiversity Loss published this week as “Historic”.
The Green Party Councillor said: “This report, which also informed the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity, is unique in centering the voices of the young people in our communities. Hearing the opinion of members between the ages of 7 – 17yrs, including children from Wicklow, is hearing directly from the people who will be most affected by Biodiversity loss. The decisions we make today as policy makers and community members will have enormous consequences on the future that our young people will live in. I recommend everyone to read it. Unlike most reports it is beautifully presented. It outlines how the consultation process was carried out as well as highlighting the 58 key calls to action.
As Chair of the Co.Wicklow Climate and Biodiversity Policy Group, this report is very timely as we are preparing to develop the County’s first Biodiversity Policy. I have extended an invitation to the convenors of the Children and Young Person’s Assembly to speak to the CABA policy group so that we can share learnings and be proactive in bringing these learnings forward. Of all the calls to action I want to highlight this one: “make sure that this Assembly’s calls to Action are carried out and not just forgotten”. In other words don’t forget about our children’s future.”
Cllr Stephen Stokes has commended the Children and Young People’s Assembly. Cllr Stokes stated: “This final report really emphasises the importance of biodiversity, and the loss we are facing. As public representatives we must listen to our youth, and act decisively. They have put forward many important action points. Recently I organised a clean up of the Dr. Ryan Park. I vividly recall removing abandoned carpets, that insects were trying to exist in. This should not happen. We must be more considerate of our environment, to protect and promote biodiversity. I hope to be a part of positive endeavours to support local biodiversity.”
Simon Harris, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Higher Education and Innovation, welcomed the report and congratulated the young leaders from all the local Greystones, Delgany and Co. Wicklow schools. The TD often recalls his years as a young activist and class representative in these same local schools. He says that he is listening and that his department and government and fellow elected politicians of all parties stand ready to help.
Sinn Féin TD John Brady also offered his congratulations and commitment to prioritise the voice of the Wicklow youth and the Wicklow environment. He will put pressure on the government to act now so that we have a liveable community and homes for our young people and for all species.
Focail Scoir / Wisdom of Youth: Seven-year-old assembly member Fiadh expressed thid same point with clarity: “We need more forests because sometimes when I go out into the car and I look out at the mountains I see a lot of deforestation has been happening in the middle of the forest. It’s just very bad because you’re just cutting down someone’s home and I don’t think that should be happening.
“Imagine if you were just sitting in your house, minding your own business, and then half of your house just gets chopped off, leaving you there and not even caring about you and your home. Trees are homes and there should be more trees and that’s why we should reintroduce more native species back into Ireland.”
Well said Fiadh – Homes are a basic right, for our young people, and for all the biodiverse species on which they will depend for their health and wellness. Biodiversity is not a nice-to-have afterthought, it’s life and community. Ní neart go cur le chéile – Children and Young People, your community are with you all the way.