A climate action group’s SUV tyre deflating campaign in south Dublin this week was ‘quite refreshing in one way’ according to the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, group coordinator Sadhbh O’Neill said she does not condone the action – but she understands the ‘deep frustration’ young people feel at seeing more and more SUVs on the streets as the climate crisis deepens.
Yesterday junior minister Neale Richmond said he had been contacted by people in Churchtown to say their tyres had been ‘slashed by a supposed climate action group’.
The group left notes for the car owners, insisting: “You’ll be angry, but don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s your car.”
“We did this because driving around urban areas in your massive vehicle has huge consequences for others.”
I’ve had calls from constituents who last night had their tyres slashed in Churchtown by a supposed climate action group.
It’s now with the local Gardaí.
This thuggery is unacceptable, I’m hopeful the investigation can put a stop to this carry on but be vigilant. pic.twitter.com/NnQUFSGUpu
— Neale Richmond (@nealerichmond) June 14, 2023
Ms O’Neill told Pat that she believes the tyres were deflated rather than slashed.
“There’s a big difference there because tyre slashing is potentially, criminally, illegal if you like, whereas deflating a tyre is not,” she said.
“It is a very small inconvenience in comparison to the huge cost that SUVs are imposing on society.
“I think we can easily get carried away by the word slashing when that is not actually what happened in the case of the Churchtown SUVs.”
She said she does not condone the action but said “in one way, it is quite refreshing” as it highlights the growing SUV problem in Ireland.
“I think young people are deeply frustrated by inadequate action and a lot of hypocrisy around climate change and they are witnessing their neighbours purchasing ever-larger vehicles,” she said.
“Over 58% of all new car sales are now SUVs in Ireland and, even if many of them are now actually electric vehicles, the size of these cars and the extra weight they bring to them are cancelling out the emissions benefits of the fact they are EVs.
“So, it is very understandable that young people - I presume they’re young people - are deeply frustrated with the lack of political action and we haven’t seen very much direct action like this is an Irish context so in one way it is quite refreshing because it puts it up to us to debate this issue.
“Why are we allowing these cars to dominate our streets and roads?
“We know they are more dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists; they are contributing to more emissions - even electric vehicles - and we should be regulating them out of existence.
“Instead, they are actually taking up more and more of all new registrations every year.”
She said the action is “certainly inconvenient” for the drivers who were targeted – but noted that Churchtown has good public transport and cycling infrastructure.
“I know it’s inconvenient,” she said. “I feel for the people who are affected, you know, it is not an action I did myself – I’m not condoning it in that sense but you have to understand the point of the action which is to raise awareness of the fact that there are societal impacts here that are not being taken care of.
“We have no extra regulation on SUVs. The tax system does not deter people from purchasing very large vehicles, they have an out-of-sight impact on pedestrians and other vulnerable road users and they are simply not appropriate vehicles for densely populated urban areas - yet, they are dominating our streets.
“So, it’s not fair to blame individual drivers I agree but as a society where do we start? Where do we have this debate?
“The Government won’t act.”
Also on the show transport commentator Conor Faughnan said Ms O’Neill made some good points but labelled the action “pretty thuggish really”.
“First thing’s first, you have got to condemn the action,” he said.
“There is no stretch of the imagination which makes this in any way legitimate. It is not refreshing. It has to be condemned.
“There are loads of avenues and loads of ways in which this conversation can be had and lots of democratic outlets for anything you feel about it – but no excuse for picking on your neighbours and doing harm to people in this way.
“It is not allowed. It is not legitimate protest and that has to be said before you can say now let’s discuss the planet and climate and all of the things I want to discuss.”