Ireland

Irish president warns planet is ‘in peril’ as he launches gardening festival

Irish President Michael D Higgins (Brian Lawless/PA)
Irish President Michael D Higgins (Brian Lawless/PA) Irish President Michael D Higgins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Michael D Higgins has warned that the planet is “in peril” as he launched a major gardening festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

This is the 17th year of the Bord Bia Bloom event, where gardens, plants and food are showcased to thousands of visitors over the June bank holiday weekend.

The Irish president said that the Bloom festival had become “more important” than an event to promote garden designs, and had developed into “a gathering in celebration of the role of nature and the importance of biodiversity”.

But he warned of the “alarming rate” at which biodiversity loss and climate change is happening.

“Bloom’s success is undoubtedly a reflection, too, of our welcome collective acknowledgment across society that we live on a planet in peril, one that is facing catastrophic climate change and runaway biodiversity loss, and that we must share our efforts in response,” Mr Higgins said.

He warned that “a rhetoric of war and arms production” should not “sideline” global aims related to climate change and sustainability.

Referencing a recent study published by Queen’s University, which found that almost half of the world’s species are in decline, he said that this represented a “species failure” and that humans had shown “an inability to live in harmony with the wide diversity of life on our planet”.

Mr Higgins also said that the findings of a recently concluded Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity loss had the potential to bring about change in Ireland, and emphasised the importance of the Government acting on its recommendations.

“The Citizens’ Assembly is an important opportunity for reflection and it has produced 159 recommendations that have the potential to transform dramatically Ireland’s relationship with our natural environment,” he said.

“However, the responsibility for execution and implementation lies with those whom the people have elected.

“Central to the 159 recommendations is the need for the State to take prompt, decisive and urgent action to address biodiversity loss and restoration and to provide leadership in protecting Ireland’s biodiversity for future generations.

“This calls on the State to adequately fund, implement and enforce existing laws and policies, both national legislation and EU biodiversity-related laws and directives.”

Mr Higgins urged that farmers be “supported in conserving and restoring biodiversity”, and highlighted conclusions made in the Citizens’ Assembly report to make a constitutional change to protect nature.

He said: “The report also proposes a series of changes to the constitution to ensure and guarantee that people have a right to a clean, healthy and safe environment, and the report recommends that nature be provided with protections within the constitution to allow it to continue to provide the necessities of life, including food, clean freshwater and air, as well as providing a clean and healthy environment for wellbeing now and in the future.

“Such recommendations follow a growing international trend highlighting the necessity to protect nature in order to protect humans.”

Mr Higgins also said that people with gardens can contribute to improving biodiversity by choosing a “suitable selection of plants and trees”, or by cutting grass less frequently.

He said that after an audit of species on the grounds of Aras an Uachtarain in 2021, he requested measures to improve the grasslands in order to cultivate habitats.

Mr Higgins also said that swift boxes had been installed, measures to encourage bat roosting had been taken, and new beehives are in the Aras’s vegetable garden.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney was also in attendance at the festival on Thursday.