A 73-year-old grandmother is going on hunger strike to protest against Ireland’s climate change policies.
Patricia Devlin – who is originally from Australia, but has lived in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, for 20 years – is taking on the four-day strike in hopes of meeting Environment Minister Richard Bruton and calling on him to implement tougher policies to tackle the climate emergency.
Launching her hunger strike outside the gates of the Irish parliament on Wednesday, Ms Devlin kicked off a week-long global action by Extinction Rebellion, which campaigns against the current government’s climate polices, which they say will not meet environmental targets.
Ms Devlin, holding photos of her two grandchildren – Ollie, four, and baby Liam – said she has been an environmental activist off and on for 40 years, and was sparked back into action after becoming a grandmother.
“Since my grandchildren, they have just awakened in me a whole wonder at life. Being a parent is great but being a grandparent is just amazing,” she said.
“You’ve got time to reflect on life in these little people and, knowing what’s happening with climate change, I really fear for what kind of life will my grandsons have. Will they have a chance to have grandchildren like me?
“My emotion is wrapped up in fear that they won’t enjoy the same blessings that we have.”
Ms Devlin said she is blessed with good health for her age, and has done 48-hour fasts before.
“I think sometimes it’s meant to be, maybe I’ve been blessed with good health so that I can do this action at 73,” she said.
“I looked at the tradition of hunger striking, which dates back to pre-Christian times, particularly in Ireland, and that’s why it appealed to me.
“This particular action is a really classic way of the vulnerable speaking to power, so I’m hoping I can speak to Minister Bruton and it might be a good way to get him out of the little hermit shell he might be in.
“I’m going to be here until Sunday afternoon but if Minister Bruton wants to meet me before then I’ve achieved my goal.
“To go through with him the aims of Extinction Rebellion, and tell the truth, we need a lot more explanation and truth telling. I don’t think our climate change plan is going to be able to meet the targets, the aims are too low.
“We need a just transition, we need to make sure we bring everyone with us.
“Usually the poorest and most marginalised have an unfair burden to carry, and we’ve seen that with the closure of the Bord Na Mona bogs.
“So far only six million euro has been set aside for climate change. They gave 16 million euro to the greyhounds, so it’s not hard to see where we’re at, really, it’s not good enough.”
Much of this year’s climate activism has been sparked by children and young people, and Ms Devlin said she believes older generations also have a duty to protect the planet.
“One of my regrets is that I didn’t keep it up. Maybe if I did this 20 years ago and did it seriously then maybe I wouldn’t need to be here today,” she said.
“Again, in the Christian tradition fasting has been used for atonement, and maybe that’s worth thinking about for my generation.
“I think they should do it if they see the sense in it, I think all grandparents must be worried.”