New Year, Same Brexit Headache

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. If you’re new to Rachel Husson’s Brexit series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective, a view of the craziest week of 2019, what Brexit means for Ireland, and what it means for students. Also, don’t forget to test your Brexit knowledge by taking our quiz!

 

What has happened over the last couple of months? 

Since the last time you read the series, some events worth mentioning took place in the Brexit saga. After the European Council agreed in late October on an extension of Brexit’s due date, an early general election was granted by the British parliament (438 votes in favour, 20 against). This election occurred on the 12th of December and the results set several strong statements. First, the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, won a comfortable majority of 364 seats of a total 650 (against 203 seats for the Labour Party, and 13 for Lib-Dem Party). Therefore, it seems that the 2016 referendum’s results were not a “mistake” after all. The second statement was made by Scottish electors. Out of the 59 seats in Parliament granted to Scottish constituencies, 48 were swiped by the Scottish National Party (SNP) – who campaign for Scottish independence within the European Union.

Five days before Christmas day, Johnson’s EU Withdrawl Agreement Bill was presented (again) to the House of Commons, which passed after two readings. From there, the Agreement had to be transposed in British law. A “transposition” bill was drafted and passed the Commons on the 9th of January by 330 votes against 231 and the UK is now expected to finally meet the latest Brexit deadline.

 

What’s next?

The text of the Withdrawal Agreement is now in the hands of the House of Lords, where the Government has no majority. So, this should be interesting. If the bill gets the Lord’s approval, then the Queen will have to give her royal consent. Normally, this should just be a formality. But we have to keep in mind that the European Parliament also has to vote the deal before Brexit can officially happen. If everything goes on track, Brexit will happen on the 31st January.  For 11 months, the UK will still follow all the EU’s rules and regulations, it will remain in the single market and the customs union and the free movement of people will continue. The challenge for the UK will be to get all its new rules and policies in place by the end of this year.

The UK and the EU will enter a new phase of negotiations about their new relationship. The stake is huge because they’ll have to agree on a “partnership” for future decades. Let’s be honest, 11 months (until the 31st of December precisely) to deal with that kind of negotiations is really short. Look how long it took them to reach the leaving deal. Of course, Johnson doesn’t want any delay. But you know it, loyal reader, the British PM has said that before, and look where we are – the initial exit date back in Halloween seems like ages ago. However, this time Johnson is so committed that his promise was enshrined in the bill passed on the 9th. No extension should there be. He has said that he’d rather have part of a deal than ask for a delay. So, you get it correctly, a no-deal Brexit is still a possibility. 

Knowing that, Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said that the period of time they have is “very very tight”, not long enough to cover every topic, so they will have to prioritise. The Prime Minister of Croatia, which currently has the presidency of the Council of the European Union for 6 months, agreed and wish to work first on trade and fishing. 

Nevertheless, prioritizing doesn’t mean compromising. On one hand, the EU recalled on several occasions that it will not consent to anything that would damage its own integrity, common market or customs union. On the other hand, Johnson expressed that he wouldn’t allow any kind of alignment on the EU’s regulation nor would he accept staying in some way under the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction. The British PM wants to “maintain control of UK fishing waters and [its] immigration system”.

 

 

Review on Scotland and Northern Ireland

The call for a second referendum on Scottish independence made by Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish PM and leader of the SNP, was formally rejected by Johnson who sees a second vote as a “political stagnation” that would impact Scotland “because of a campaign to separate the UK”. “It is time that we all worked to bring the whole of the United Kingdom together and unleash the potential of this great country”, he added. The PM claims that by refusing he respects Scots’ democratic decision: the 2014 referendum was promised to be a “once in a lifetime” occasion and set Scotland to remain in the UK. But one could argue that the situation has changed since 2014. It seems understandable that Brexit made a difference… According to the SNP, the Conservatives are afraid of the results if the vote took place in the pro-Europe nation. The full answer of the Scottish Government is expected to arrive by the end of January. Stay tuned… 

With the New Year came great news for Northern Ireland: a new executive is in place after three years of talks. Called “New Decade, New Approach”, the 62-page deal was published by both British and Irish Governments and set out guidelines and commitments for the new executive. This agreement comes after Northern Ireland was really divided on the December UK general election: 8 seats in Westminster for Unionists (DUP) and 9 for Nationalists (7 for Sinn Fein which practice abstentionism, meaning they refuse to sit in London, and 2 for the SDLP). Would Northern Ireland be inspired by Scotland? It’s not that easy, mainly because it’s not the same situation. Scotland wants its independence, when in the North the idea would be about changing the Parliament they answer to, talking about “Irish unity”. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, for such a vote to be called, the initiative must come for the British Secretary of State when they think the majority of the Northern Irish population would support Irish unity. One may argue that some elements point to that. If Northern Ireland’s choice was to leave the UK, then the Irish Republic would have to vote on that Irish unity too. Surveys have shown than 51% of the Irish population is in favour of this unity. Short advance, especially when you think of the margin of error. It appears clear that the whole island is deeply split on the matter… The post-Brexit daily life and the future deal may help some islanders to fold one way or another. 

 

It seems to me that the UK’s History might be made in the next few years…

 

 

Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer

 

 

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New Year, Same Brexit Headache

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FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

On 20 December 2019 at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, a couple was convicted of one count of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their one-year-old daughter at an address in Dublin in September 2016, as well as one count of child cruelty relating to the same incident. During the hearing carried out in November, the court heard that the woman, from Somalia, had also been victim to the same practice as a child. Ms. Justice Elma Sheahan has postponed sentencing until 27 January 2020 to allow consideration of evidence in the case.

 

FGM generally takes three forms, it involves the excision of the clitoris (Type 1), excision of the clitoris and labia (Type 2) or stitching (infibulation) of the labia and removal of the clitoris (Type 3 also known as “Pharaonic Circumcision”). The health issues caused particularly by Type 3 FGM are profound: frequently carried out by “traditional” practitioners in unhygienic surroundings, it can, according to UNICEF, lead to the “entire gamut of medical complications, including: tetanus infection leading to death; severe bleeding during the procedure and later during deinfibulation; complications during childbirth; inability to urinate; septicemia, sometimes leading to death; severe muscle contractions; and difficulties in breathing”. This is to say nothing of the profoundly damaging mental health implications of mutilating and inflicting agonising pain on girls. Furthermore, within communities with precarious access to healthcare and strained or non-existent public health systems, FGM compounds problems for healthcare professionals struggling to cope with already heavy workloads. It is, therefore, a profound public health problem, as well as a women’s rights issue.

 

The prevalence of FGM within Somalia is staggering with an estimated 90-98 per cent of girls between the ages of 4 and 11 victim to some form of the practice with nearly 80 per cent undergoing Type 3. It is broadly representative, then, of the relegation of women within Somali culture to second class citizens where a patrilineal clan system (Qabil) rooted in pastoralist culture orders society. For instance, under Somali customary law (Xeer), the life of a woman is worth half that of a man in terms of blood compensation (Diya). Similarly, a woman’s opinion is worth half that of a man’s in a traditional assembly (Shir) or mediation. These attitudes are borne out in the horrific violence women are subjected to by security forces and civilians alike, with rape and beating of women proliferating and even punitive stonings, sometimes for being raped, not uncommon. Furthermore, Somalia has an overwhelming majority Sufi Muslim population. It is, for the most part, a place where “the veil is lightly worn” and a pragmatic interpretation of Islam sits sometimes uneasily alongside customary laws and practices. Moreover, while FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam. While it is most prevalent within Somalia, FGM is also extant to varying degrees in the rest of the Horn of Africa, for instance, majority Christian Ethiopia. As such, despite the fractious relationship of the various populations within the region framed around religious conflict, it exposes deep cultural linkages between the Cushitic peoples inhabiting the Horn.

 

While FGM, then, is practised mainly in majority Muslim countries and is frequently framed as a Muslim issue, it is also extant in Christian and Jewish (specifically in Ethiopia) populations as well as Central and Western Africa, parts of the Middle East and South-East Asia. While some references to male circumcision within Islamic texts are regularly and incorrectly employed as justifications for the practice, significantly, it is neither required nor prohibited by the Quran or the Bible, rather, it is tellingly not mentioned in either text.  Attempts to square this theological circle are indicative of the resilience of the practice and, consequently, demonstrative of why contemporary efforts to advocate against the practice are slow to drive change.

 

Within Somalia, advocacy groups struggle against the weight of custom, tradition and superstition. Nonetheless, some degree progress has been made especially within urban areas with some turning away from Type 3 FGM and resorting to less harmful, albeit still extremely problematic, versions of FGM. Fewer still have outright stopped the practice. Furthermore, there has been a moral realignment amongst politicians who recently have begun to advocate against the practice. However, unsurprisingly, there is some reluctance to discuss female reproductive issues in the male-dominated, overwhelmingly Muslim country’s legislatures. Despite this, the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland’s parliament passed an anti-FGM bill in 2011 and the practice is specifically prohibited by the 2012 Somali constitution. However, startlingly, the practice has not actually been criminalised despite the best efforts of activists especially in the wake of the death in 2018 of a ten-year-old girl in rural Somalia, named Deeqa, who bled to death after being taken to a “traditional cutter” by her mother. Of course, Somalia, which is a fragile state riddled by insecurity, intra-state conflict and concurrent complex humanitarian emergencies has limited capacity to project power even within urban areas. As a result, any movement to enshrine laws against the practice are, realistically, nominal.

 

In the Irish context, Ifrah Ahmed, a Somali-born Irish citizen, who founded the Ifrah Foundation, has become a powerful voice globally in the anti-FGM movement and has done invaluable work spreading awareness and advocating against the practice. She has even returned to Somalia to campaign against FGM, a journey not without its dangers given endemic insecurity and prevailing attitudes towards women. Ifrah Ahmed and other anti-FGM campaigners, then, face a wicked problem; the causes of FGM are multifarious and the practice is deeply ingrained in Somalia, however, progress is being made albeit slowly. Moreover, if Somalia’s institutions and security situation continue to stabilise and improve, as has been the case over the last ten years, and the country wishes to improve its image for donors and stakeholders by presenting a modernising face to the world, progress can be made.

 

If you have been touched by this article or would like to find out more, you can contact the Ifrah Foundation

 

Photo of Ifrah Ahmed by AMISOM Public Information

 

 

 

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New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Shauna Costello, a Coolock native, is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords can decline.

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

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Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

In this article, I talk to Shauna Costello, a Coolock native who is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). The money to be raised is so Sinead can travel to Mexico to get vital treatment for chemotherapy and stem cell treatment (HSCT), which is not available in Ireland.

MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords begin to decline.

Sinead will spend one month in Mexico in order to access the clinic to seek this important treatment. As well as this, once Sinead returns from Mexico after hopefully receiving the treatment, she will not be able to work for a year. Shauna and others are therefore not only fundraising for the treatment in Mexico, but also for her aftercare once Sinead returns home.

I could talk further about the campaign and why it is important, but why don’t we hear from Shauna herself: 

“Hi, my name is Shauna Costello, I am a 21-year-old girl from Coolock who is currently studying in the 2nd year of my degree in Community and Youth Development in TUD Blanchardstown Campus. I have a fundraiser in Wigwam (54 Middle Abbey St, North City, Dublin) on the 13th of February in aid of my aunt, Sinead Kirkland, who is currently battling a form of MS.

A few years ago, Sinead was diagnosed with Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (PRMS). A rare form of MS (only 5%), PRMS is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions. Sinéad has been extremely brave in dealing with her illness, being a mam and continuing to work. Sinéad is an amazing woman, a great mother to her only daughter Erin and an amazing aunt to me and my three sisters.

As of December 2019, we have raised just over €21,000 for Sinead. However, our goal is to raise €50,000 to pay for the treatment and her aftercare when she returns from Mexico. If my event in Wigwam goes to plan and I sell out the venue, I have the possibility to raise a further €5,000 for her, which is amazing as the fundraiser will hopefully be a night that people will also enjoy!

I’m not doing this alone; I have a team of 6 people raising money for Sinead. Each member of the team has an individual goal of raising €10,000 each. The event in Wigwam is to contribute towards my €10,000 and I have five fantastic DJs on board to help me. The DJs include KAYCEE, KAILY, SARAH MOONEY, GEORGE FEELY & DJ DEECE. These DJs have played internationally and at Irish festivals all over the country- I am over the moon that they are on board to help me. I am hoping that people who enjoy a great night out for an even better cause will help me out and buy some tickets for the event.

It is important that I raise this money for my aunt Sinead because unfortunately, over the last few months, Sinead’s symptoms have not improved. We need to get Sinéad to Mexico to get chemotherapy with stem cell treatment (HSCT). If she doesn’t get this treatment soon, the illness will overtake her body. I want to give my aunt the best chance at having the best life possible for as long as possible.”

Shauna and her family are doing amazing so far but need support.. A lot of us may be able to relate to Shauna by having a loved one in our lives that have gone through a life-threatening illness. If you would like to get involved:

 

  • Here is a link to the Move your Body 4 MS fundraiser on the 13th of February.
  • Here is a link to the GoFundMe online fundraiser to donate.
  • Here is a link to the A Stem of Hope for Sinead campaign on facebook to keep up to date. 

 

 

Photos by George Feely, Kaycee, Dj Deece, Kaily

 

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

 

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Shauna Costello, a Coolock native, is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords can decline.

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. Our contributor Lyndsay Walsh explains why we need an Irish Green New Housing Act.

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.

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

What’s new with the Queen?

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly,  Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free! In her memoir, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe”, Kelly explained that “if Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onward fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. Many activist organisations dedicated to the well-being of animals, such as PETA UK, welcomed the news. Claire Bass, executive director of animal charity Humane Society International, was said to be “thrilled by the move”.

If you’ve paid attention to the way the Senior Dresser announced the news, you can read between the lines that The Queen will continue to wear the fur robes required for duty. Also, in what might be seen as a logical method of  sustainability, she won’t throw away the pieces of clothing made with fur she already owns. But when used, those shall be replaced with faux fur. 

 

Why is it good news? 

Over 100 million animals around the world are killed each year for their fur. As you can imagine, their living conditions are far from ideal, and let’s not even mention the way they’re killed. To give you an insight, when those fur animals are killed by electrocution, neck breaking or drowning, these are the lucky ones. In addition, the whole fur process contributes to climate change because of land pollution and devastation, but mainly because of water contamination.

Let’s be honest then, anyone quitting fur is good news. How can we not to welcome The Queen’s commitment? Well, I guess by having mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur. I’ll explain.

The Queen’s Guards, famous for their uniforms including their hats, are not going faux fur. All the Guards are still wearing the so-called “bearskins”. As their name suggests it, these hats are made with bear skin. Each year, the British army take 100 bear skins from the Black Bear Cull in Canada. 

We know that, since 2005, the British Ministry of Defence is trying to find an alternative to the bear fur. Tests have been done, but so far artificial fur is said to be unable to fit the same rigorous criteria than the original. Unfortunately, I don’t think that saving animals is really what motivates the Ministry or the Army to try and change such a tradition. The fact that in a decade the price of that bear skin rose by 500% might more likely be the reason they aspire to find alternatives. 

 

What’s the public’s opinion in the UK? 

Since 2000, the UK has banned fur farming on its soil. It was the first country worldwide to implement that ban. Claire Bass has asked the Government to go further and ban the sale of fur, making the UK the first country to do so. Today, the country is continuing to import fox, mink and rabbit fur.

Bass stated that “Queen Elizabeth’s decision to go “faux fur” is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur and want nothing to do with it.” More than 2/3 of the British population support fur prohibition. 

 

What is the debate in Ireland, the EU and more?

In Ireland, three fur farms are still in activity, all of them mink. Located in Donegal, Laois and Kerry, these farms combined kill about 150,000 minks a year. Their main arguments to keep fur farming is based on three – to be proven incorrect – pillars. Firstly, they say they employ permanent staff and give jobs to the locals, when reality shows that on average they have only three permanent workers per farm. Secondly, they try to convince us that fur farming is Irish heritage. Oh surprise, it’s not. Only one of the three fur farms in Ireland belongs to an Irish family. Thirdly, fur farming is said to actively support the national economy. Well again, as shown in other countries including the UK, bans on fur farming have had no negative impacts on the economy. 

According to a Red C Research published in October 2018, 80% of the Irish population agree that fur farming and killing should be banned. This is not even the highest rate in Europe. Italy culminates with 91%, followed by Belgium and Germany with 86%. However, some European countries remain more split such as France, with 51% of its nationals agreeing on a ban, or Denmark with 55%.

The UK opened the way in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000. Then, went along Austria (2004), Denmark (2009 – for fox farming only), Slovenia (2013), the Republic of Macedonia (2014) to name a few. 

The European Union passed regulations regarding fur farming, namely European Directive 98/58/EC (concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes) in 1998 and the Council of Europe Recommendation Concerning Fur Animals in 1999. Fur farming as it’s done today simply does not comply with these regulations, twenty years later. 

Worldwide, a few brands decided to drop fur from their collections, including Prada, Gucci and DKNY. In the USA, Macy’s Inc – one of the biggest American retailers – announced that it would stop selling fur by the end of 2020 fiscal year. California state, ahead of the rest of the US and most of the rest of the world, banned the manufacture and sale of animal fur. We can only hope to see more commitments heading in this direction.

 

 

Photo by Kutan Ural on Unsplash

 

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

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Shauna Costello, a Coolock native, is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords can decline.

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. Our contributor Lyndsay Walsh explains why we need an Irish Green New Housing Act.

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.

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. This is the first overt action to bring the Green New Deal to life since the resolution was released this February. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the Green New Deal is essentially a ten-year plan to greatly reduce US emissions through mass deployment of renewable energies, huge investment in green infrastructure (particularly public transport) and the creation of numerous ‘green jobs’. The deal places great emphasis on addressing the climate crisis and social justice crisis as dual-issues, and also endeavours to provide free Medicare and Education for All.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act specifically focuses on enhancing over one million units of public housing through zero-carbon upgrades. The bill allocates over $172 billion US dollars to fund this project and it would create roughly 240,000 jobs every year. According to research by The Nation, this would be the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only would it reduce emissions, it would also create safer and healthier neighbourhoods and boost employment in poorer areas. The Act is extraordinary in its scope and ambition, and some critics have dismissed it as being ‘too unrealistic’. This commentary is to be expected in the face of any trillion-dollar plan, but truthfully, the whole world should be taking note. Most of all, Ireland. 

Ireland has been getting a lot of bad press for poor performance on climate change, and rightly so. We have missed our emissions targets three years running and currently have the third-highest emissions per capita in the EU. This trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon. Ireland is also suffering from a housing crisis, in case you haven’t heard (or have been living under a rock – I’d say you can get a good price for it on rent.ie). An extreme deficit in housing within the capital has driven prices to an all-time high, forcing people to rent indefinitely or move further and further out – often to locations where public transport is poor (read: non-existent) and where owning a car is a necessity. This results in an inexhaustible list of problems including financial insecurity, deteriorating physical and mental health and ultimately, homelessness. 

As of September 2019, there were 10,397 people without homes in Ireland. Over one-third of these are children. This is unacceptable and is ultimately the result of a broken housing system. We need more public housing. We need an Irish Green New Housing Act. This would be a project undertaken by the Irish Government whereby zero-carbon, energy efficient public housing would be deployed and upgraded over the next ten years, providing numerous jobs in the process. Green communities would be created with adequate links to an improved public transport network that runs completely off renewables. Imagine. 

Imagine an Ireland where issues of public interest are favoured over the interests of private entities. Where we provide for our people and our environment. These are issues that cannot be kept separate and it has long been known that under a climate crisis it will be the poorest and already vulnerable who will be the first hit, and the worst hit. Here is a plan to address two of our most pressing issues in tandem. As the Emerald Isle, let’s truly take up the mantle of being ‘green’ and become a leader on these issues.

 

Photo by Patrick on Twitter

 

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

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Shauna Costello, a Coolock native, is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords can decline.

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. Our contributor Lyndsay Walsh explains why we need an Irish Green New Housing Act.

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 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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