Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

I was out for dinner with some friends this time last year and after the waiter took our order, one of them turned to me and asked me why I was vegetarian. I told him that although there were several reasons, it was primarily an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. The conversation inevitably turned to climate change to which he contributed: “sure we don’t have to worry about that for another 30 or 40 years”. His comment, the product of benign ignorance, struck me for a number of reasons. I realised that the truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself. I was also struck by the realisation that we in Ireland carry a certain privilege which many other people in the world do not. 

That memory resurfaced this week when Leo Varadkar made comments regarding the “benefits” of climate change to Irish people, including lower heating bills and fewer deaths due to warmer winters. His comments have been subjected to much criticism; and rightly so. They represent a willful ignorance of the impact that climate change is already having to many people beyond our shores, without mentioning what is yet to come for Ireland. At the core of his message is a display of privilege which is not afforded to most. 

Privilege and climate change are deeply interwoven and intersect in a number of ways. Firstly, any worthwhile conversation about the climate crisis must realise that not everyone is affected in the same way. While Leo dreams of milder winters, many in the global south are already learning to cope with the damaging effects of climate change. In Leo’s familial home of India more people than ever are dying due to extreme heat waves; in Bangladesh, towns  are being displaced due to sea level rise; that sea level rise is destroying fertile farmland and ruining livelihoods in Vietnam; while communities in sub-Saharan Africa suffer crop failure due to increasingly irregular weather patterns. The common theme here is that the countries which are already suffering are those with some of the lowest per-capita emissions in the world. This disparity became abundantly clear at the Pacific Islands Forum in August of this year where a group of low-lying nations, including the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, asked Australia to stop burning coal because the country was directly contributing to sea level rise and land loss in the region. Australia arrogantly declined. Just three years previous, Kiribati was forced to purchase land in Fiji for the eventuality that the nation would be submersed in the coming years. The combined carbon footprint of these island nations does not even compare to the average Australian city, and yet they are losing their homes because of the greed of those in the developed world. 

This raises the second major intersection of climate change and privilege: not everyone contributes the same amount. One observation many people will point to is that greenhouse gas emissions are rising because Earth’s human population continues to grow far beyond a point it has ever reached in history. While there is a very real conversation to be had about curbing human population growth, the causes of climate change go far beyond just numbers. Many of the countries with the fastest-growing populations (e.g. India, Nigeria, Bangladesh) also have some of the lowest per-capita emissions in the world. This is because many of the activities which have driven climate change have, until now, been restricted to more privileged people in the developed world: air travel, car ownership, meat-intense diets, fast fashion and many other facets of consumerism which have yet to reach less developed nations. These are luxuries which most people in Ireland take for granted. If you’ve ever been on an airplane (even once), you’re among the privileged 18% of the world’s population; and I’d wager most people reading this have taken more than one flight in their lives.

If we are to reverse climate change, we first need to fully understand the dynamics that drive it, i.e. capitalism and its malicious offspring colonialism. The inequality that exists between those who are causing climate change and those who are suffering from it is the biggest challenge facing humanity presently. We are living in a globalised world and until now we have been a net beneficiary of a system which has left many other nations to fend for themselves against the consequences of our greed. It is time we held ourselves and other developed nations accountable for the negligent, reckless and sometimes heartless actions of the few. We are far beyond the point when a world leader can turn a blind eye to the devastating effects of the climate crisis. True leadership would recognise our privilege and use it to help those who have suffered under the same system which has benefitted us. But maybe that’s expecting too much of the Taoiseach.

 

Photo by Gareth Chaney/Collins on Irish Times

 

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Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.

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Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month.

The former President of Ireland delivered a striking speech that evening. The topic of the event drew from her thesis work, The Future of Ireland: Human and Children’s Rights, and brought before us “evolving questions, next generation constitutional reforms and church-state relations.”

Professor McAleese began by talking about Brexit, especially in the context of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that she was so very involved in. Professor McAleese called for a “move beyond the past… without disturbing the peace”, noting that the Agreement did not provide for Brexit, which interrupted the sense of partnership between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom provided by the European Union, which she calls “the noblest enterprise in the history of Europe”. Professor McAleese did not shy away from criticising the United Kingdom when she claimed that Brexit was “a lesson about how not to go about constitutional change” and produced an “enraged, rather than an engaged, society”.

Professor McAleese then brought around the conversation to the strong religious undercurrents inherent in the Brexit, hard-border problem, mentioning religion and religious sensibilities in the context of changing constitutional demographics and emphasising the importance of upholding different identities which are currently fraught with fragile emotion. Change, according to McAleese, needs to begin with the rights of the child in the context of religion, including the right to freedom of religion, the right to change religion, the right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of conscience, as set out by Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Latin Catholic Church, as the “biggest service provider of educational services for children in Ireland” is to be the starting point.

Professor McAleese detailed the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This established children as the holders of autonomous rights, including the right to change religion, the right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of conscience, enlisting parents to the more nuanced role of their obligation to their child to help them to form their own independent, capable thoughts. The Holy See was directly involved in the drafting of this convention and was one of the first entities to ratify it – however, a request to review the Catholic canon law to comply with the convention was refused. 

Professor McAleese then explained canon law in terms of baptism, describing theological impact and its more controversial juridical aspect – to the extent that an infant being baptised was deemed to have entered voluntarily into membership with the Catholic Church through promises made by parents on the child’s behalf. This child was now, by baptism, deemed to have embraced the Catholic faith and obliged to profess it based on promises made by parents’ on the child’s behalf. McAleese likened this to an onerous contract and argued it to be “flatly inconsistent with the Convention”, asserting that the Holy See had never actually taken into account the ethical, legal and moral implications of imposing this kind of obligation on infants.

Professor McAleese claimed that Catholic Church canon law does not confer on the church a right to ignore state and international law, and argued that a new Ireland required “new ways of guiding and directing our children”. She called for Church recognition that the Convention will take precedence over these rights-constricting canon laws. Any covenant between Church and State must start with the rights of children, and so should any talk of Ireland’s future. She concluded that “this is a very good place to begin.”

 

Photo by TrinityLongRoomHub on Twitter

 

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Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

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The Validity of Plane-Shaming

There’s been an increase in people speaking out about the effects of plane travel on the environment, while many are also claiming that other forms of transport are inaccessible. Who is right?

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

By awarding the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke, the Swedish Academy are by default giving merit and support to a writer who has controversially supported the Serb campaign during the Balkan War and fall of Yugoslavia.

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

 

For most people, November is an average month. But for people like me and many others, it’s a month to reflect and take account of our spiritual, mental and physical health.

Movember takes place every year during the month of, you guessed it, November. It is a month-long campaign to raise funds for health issues that affect men. People do events and fundraisers to help raise money for research and awareness for mental health problems such as suicide and depression and as well for testicular and prostate cancer research. 

The movement began in Australia in 2003 when two friends, Travis and Luke, decided to try and bring the moustache back into fashion. Travis and Luke were inspired by a friend’s mother who had raised money for her breast cancer treatment and decided to create the campaign to focus on men’s mental and physical health. Fast forward 16 years and the campaign has grown into a global movement with over 5 million people spreading awareness and growing a moustache to raise funds for essential research.

It is now a charity that is tackling the issue of men’s health on a global scale. We live in a world where men, on average, are living six years less than women because of medical issues that are largely preventable. In the next 15 years, unchecked prostate cancer rates will double, and already testicular cancer rates have doubled over the last 50 years. One man dies by suicide ever 60 seconds and men account for ¾ of suicides in Ireland.

As a young person today I don’t think a lot about my mortality, but in  November of 2018 I found a lump on my testicles. It shook me in my existence and after I lost a good friend of mine earlier this year to suicide, I have been continuously thinking about what it means to be alive.  

I have dealt with mental health problems in my life, as does everyone else, because that’s what happens. It’s normal to have dark days and it’s normal to go to counselling. It’s made me a happier person and If I didn’t have supports such as the people around me and the help of medical professionals I wouldn’t be here today speaking about my mental health.

 

So why am I raising funds for the Movember Foundation? 

Well, their mission to me is about standing up and saying ‘’yeah I’m not okay – I need help’’.  It’s the ability to do this despite a culture of toxic masculinity perpetuated by people saying things like ‘’buck up’’ and ‘’men don’t cry’’. Well, you know what, I cry, and I don’t care. I shouldn’t have to live in a culture where I see everyone I know hurting.  As an activist and social worker I have a duty to people of all ages to protect their best interest but to also make sure that they are empowered to make their own decisions. It’s important to break the barriers of the ‘’strong man culture’’ we experience in our personal lives and to start talking about mental health stigma.

As part of this series, I have reached out to people who have different stories to tell about their mental health and how it has shaped everything they do now in the present.

We all live in a society where, for too long, people have suffered in silence, where there is a national shortage of mental health professionals and facilities. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, no matter if you come from a rich or poor family, if you are or are not straight. 

At this time the best thing we can do for ourselves, our families and friends, is just talk because there’s no issue too small and no problem too big that can’t be helped if you just talk, because a problem shared is a problem halved. 

Here is a link  to my fundraiser for the Movember foundation, by the end of November I wish to have raised 1000 euro for the foundation. 

So, for all the reasons I have mentioned above please if you could donate what you can afford, it would be greatly appreciated.  The price of a coffee or a pint can go towards helping to stop men dying young.

Thank you.

 

 

Photo by Shannon Takhashi

 

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30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why was there a wall? Why and how did it fall? What happened next? What about other walls in the world? These are the questions we’ll try to answer!

 

A bit of context: Why was there a wall in Berlin? 

In 1945, after the Second World War, Germany was partitioned. The UK, the USA, France and the USSR (former Soviet Union) each got a piece of Germany (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing). In 1949, the Allies (France, the UK and the USA) decided to unite their parts of Germany, which became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG – West Germany). The rest of Germany remained under Soviet power and was called the German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany). The border between the two Germanies was called the Iron curtain. At first, there was no physical representation of the border. It gradually became an impassable 8500km long barrier, going from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea.

Eventually, Berlin was partitioned too (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing), and in the same way the Allies united their parts, opposing the Soviets. At first, there was no physical border in Berlin, allowing East German to easily escape to West Germany, which was seen as more attractive because richer. The crossing started to be massive. In 1960, around 200,000 people left GDR to find refuge in West Berlin. Until 1961, almost 3,5 million Eastern Germans had fled to FRG. The Soviets couldn’t stand this affront any longer and wanted to stop the haemorrhage. 

Therefore, they came up with a plan to build a physical border, dividing Berlin. In one night only, from the 12th August 1961’s evening to the 13th August’s morning, the VoPos (Volkspolizei’s agents, police force from GDR) erected a wall with 2m high concrete panels and barbed wires. This was meant to last. The quickness was incredible. At 11:15pm Germans could cross the border easily. At 11:30pm it was impossible. There were actually very few violent scenes that night. People were just stunned. The wall was protected by a 500m no-man’s land and guarded by VoPo’s, ready to shoot on sight any agitator. From now on, if you wanted to cross the border, you could only do it by reporting to one of the 13 checkpoints. From the East to West Germany, you could only cross to the other sidel if you had a pass. From the West to the East, to travel by car, you needed a special authorization, that you were almost sure you wouldn’t get. The 2,5 millions of West Berliners got really isolated, as on an island among GDR. 

 

A historic day: Why and how did it fall?

In 1989, people who stayed in East Berlin started to protest more and more often. Eastern Germans were on the streets, demanding reforms. Eventually, the authorities implemented “new” travel regulations. But nowhere in those was actually written that the gate would open on the 9th of November. 

At a press conference that day, around 6pm, Guenter Schabowsky, an East German Politburo spokesman addressed the press about these new rules. But he hadn’t taken the time to properly read those. He let journalists understand (and then report) that “exit via border crossings” would be “possible for every citizens” effective, “immediately, right away.” His later complementary comment about how the permeability of the wall was not answered yet was not really listened to. At 7pm, Western radio announced that the Berlin Wall was open. Soon after the broadcast, German television shared the news as well, and people started to gather at the checkpoints, on both sides of the wall. 

Among the guards, was a feeling of uncertainty. After a few phone calls, they were reassured that the border was meant to stay closed on their watch. But soon, they would be outnumbered by the crowd. Refusing to resort to use violence in risk of it escalating, they decided around 9pm to let some people cross, to ease the thousands of people gathering at the gates. This solution lasted a couple of hours. Around 11:30pm, the barriers of Bornholmer Straße were lifted up. Others would soon follow. At this point, people were jumping on top of the wall, reunited and cheered. 

What’s really striking here is how important the timing was that day. At that time, due to the time difference, Western leaders were busy in some meetings, while Soviets leader were sleeping. Therefore, they didn’t get the chance to take action and consolidate the wall and the checkpoints. 

This is how the 9th of November became a historic day. To celebrate this day, a 7-day Festival was organised in Berlin.

 

Aftermath: What happened next?

The fall of the Wall continued the following days and weeks. The official dismantling began on the 13th July 1990 and was completed by 1992. This two-year gap is really in contrast with the one-night construction.

A couple of weeks after the fall, Helmut Kohl (West German Chancellor) launched a 10-point program to bring the two Germanies closer, maybe even to reunification. On the 3rd October 1990, the reunification became reality. This united country would be officially called the Federal Republic of Germany. This way, Germany was a successor state to smaller FRG, retaining all international commitments made by Western Germany. 

The reunification was not as simple as it seemed. The former East communist economy was difficult to get along with the Western economy. The Deutsche Mark was introduced to former GDR, but this was not a smooth transition. Unemployment rose in the Eastern regions as businesses and factories couldn’t keep up due to the introduction of a new currency. All those dreams of freedom and prosperity were at first crushed for East Germans.

 

Still divided: What about other walls in the world?

At the end of the Second World War, 7 border walls where to be found in the world. By the time the Berlin wall fell, 15 were counted. Nowadays, we’re beyond 70 walls. 

One of the most famous might be the Israel/West Bank wall, erected in 2002 after several Palestinian attacks. Called the “apartheid wall”, the 700km barrier was judged in breach of international law by the international Court of Justice in 2004.

We also often hear about the Indian/Bangladesh border wall. The 3200km brick wall was erected to “protect India from Muslim invaders”, with no consideration for the small towns it crosses. 

But very much closer to us, we can still witness a wall up in Belfast. The “Peace Wall” is presented as a protection, as a tool to keep peace in Belfast, preventing anymore rioting. Still, when you have a walk on each side of the wall, protection is not the first word that comes to your mind. Division. Separation. Disconnection. Those are words that fill your head. Just by the size of the houses, the existence or not of a garden attached to the house, the size of the windows, you can tell how different the daily life must be depending on what side you’re living in. 

Therefore, I must ask, protection or division? 

30 years ago, we were all waiting for the Berlin Wall to fall. This border was seen as an unbearable sign of division that the international community wanted down. But in the meantime, more and more walls were erected. Where is the coherence here?

This topic was obviously brought back in the spotlight by Trump and his wish to build a wall between the USA and Mexico. As if there were not already fences between those states. Migration and Brexit also added to the debate by questioning non-existing borders. But in the end, don’t you think that we benefit from sharing different cultures? 

 

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

 

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Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why was there a wall? Why and how did it fall? What happened next? What about other walls in the world? These are the questions we’ll try to answer!

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

There’s been an increase in people speaking out about the effects of plane travel on the environment, while many are also claiming that other forms of transport are inaccessible. Who is right?

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

By awarding the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke, the Swedish Academy are by default giving merit and support to a writer who has controversially supported the Serb campaign during the Balkan War and fall of Yugoslavia.

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

The no-flying trend isn’t new. We all know or have heard of someone who prefers to spend hours on a train rather than hopping on a plane to go on holiday. But things have got to a new level with plane shaming, a new concept whereby travelers are meant to feel guilty about the carbon footprint of their flights. The burning topic has taken centre stage after climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed to the United States on a zero-carbon solar-powered yacht last summer. Although the journey was a perilous one, and took days to complete, it is the only way the teen activist accepted to travel across the pond. 

Although the impact of flights on the environment and the climate is a growing concern for many people, many think that other forms of transport are simply inaccessible for overseas travels. Budget airlines offer incredibly competitive prices which allows the public to travel for a variety of reasons – to see family, to access healthcare or other treatments, and even to work. 

Plane shaming seems to have more reach, as many influencers, celebrities, presidents and ministers are questioned on their use of private planes as a mode of transport. These  individuals often take private flights that may carry as little as two people, and yet do not use less fuel than a regular flight carrying hundreds of people. 

Furthermore, short flights are said to produce a larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than other lengths of flights. According to Vox, a “one-way flight across the Atlantic from New York City to London emits one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger. There are upward of 2,500 flights over the North Atlantic every day.”

Flying is not in fact the most popular method of public transport, with only one fifth of the global population having ever taken a flight. Unfortunately, this means that these very few amount of fliers are accounting for the 2.5% of carbon emissions worldwide which are due to air travel. Reports also suggest that if nothing is done, by 2050, air travel could account to a quarter of the planet’s carbon budget.  

Things are slowly looking up, however. Some initiatives are starting to push the no-flying movement, such as “We Stay On The Ground” in 2018, which mainly aimed to convince people to pledge to living without flying for at least a year. Greta Thunberg travels across Europe by train, and when she was attending the United Nations Climate Action Summit in the U.S, she travelled on a zero-carbon boat. It is said that the Greta effect has caused fewer flights in Sweden, her home country. 

However, the individual may not be the one to blame. When asked how she felt on the topic of individuals taking flights less often or not at all, final year journalism student at Dublin City University, Clara Kelly, said “a large majority of people can’t afford to travel by ferry, yet still need to have access to leaving the country”. 

Sonja Tutty, vice-chair of DCU’s STAND society, said that individuals should not be the only ones held responsible. “It’s also up to corporations – and especially the aviation industry in this case – to change, because they are the biggest contributors to the problem. Moreover, Instead of shaming people for using planes, governments can try and develop their public transport, and make sustainable alternatives more affordable and accessible,” she concluded.

 

 

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.

Climate justice panel urges student activists not to underestimate their power

The breakdown of our planet is the farthest thing from fair, targeting those most vulnerable in our society rather than the actual culprits causing the earth’s devastation. STAND’s Student Festival hosted a panel discussion targeting this exact issue on November 7th on TUD’s campus.

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

For the general public, literary prizes are not of particular importance. They boost sales for nominees and winners, and increase public knowledge of certain new releases. Of course, the judges of such literary prizes, and the institutions they represent, can use their elevated position to promote authors and works which inspire progressiveness, inclusivity, empathy, and unrepresented voices. This year the Nobel Prize for Literature, one of the world’s most respected and renowned literary prizes, chose not to do so. 

By awarding the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke, the Swedish Academy are by default giving merit and support to a writer who has controversially supported the Serb campaign during the Balkan War and fall of Yugoslavia. The Austrian playwright, publically supported former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević during his UN tribunal trial for war crimes, and performed a eulogy at his funeral in 2006. 

Swedish Academy member Mats Malm has reported that the Prize is awarded on “literary and aesthetic ground. It is not in the Academy’s mandate to balance literary quality against political considerations”. Politics aside, to reward an €825,000 prize (and the literary canonisation that goes with it) to someone who has publically declared that the Bosnians massacred each other and denied the Srebrenica genocide is shameful. It promotes a un-humanitarian agenda of exclusion. 

The news has been received with criticism by leaders of countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo, and other literary institutions such as PEN America. 

Some of the work which Handke has been awarded the Nobel Prize for, an award received by the likes of Hemingway and Beckett, include A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia, a travelogue which portrays Serbia as the victim of the Yugoslav Wars. 

The Mothers of Srebrenica, an activist group based in the Netherlands who represent the 6,000 survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, have called for this award to be revoked. Handke, in response to winning, has commented: “I feel a strange kind of freedom, I don’t know, a freedom, which is not the truth, as if I were innocent.” 

In my opinion, it is more than controversial to publicly reward Handke with such prestige: no literary merit can undo his vocal atrocities. 

 

 

Photo by Nobel Prize on Twitter

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why was there a wall? Why and how did it fall? What happened next? What about other walls in the world? These are the questions we’ll try to answer!