Newcastle Dolmens Eco Group Addresses Rights Of Nature

Dolmens Eco Group Film Festival Touches On Environmental Themes

Dolmens Eco Group Film Festival Touches On Environmental Themes

Declan Owens, an environmental lawyer who set up Ecojustice Ireland, and a member of the Dolmens Climate Action Network, was delighted with the response from those who attended the film showing in the Newcastle Community Cinema last weekend. The 40-minute Rights of Nature film was hosted by popular Cork folksinger and environmentalist John Spillane and contained commentary from leading environmentalists across Ireland.

Speaking to Down News, Declan Owens said: “There is a growing conversation on the Rights of Nature on the island of Ireland. On Friday 17 June, the conversation continued at Newcastle Community Cinema following the screening of a documentary by the Environmental Justice Network Ireland, which shows how many Irish campaigners are using this framework to argue for a paradigm shift in how we understand our relationship with the natural world.”

The audience conversation after the film showing was facilitated by Declan Owen of Ecojustice Ireland, a social enterprise advocating a Just Transition for workers and communities, and was part of the Eco Film Festival run by the Dolmens Climate Action Network.

He added: “The discourse on the Rights of Nature is a way of acknowledging that humans are part of Nature, not separate from it, and it is a concept which can enable us to learn (or remember) how to live in harmony with Nature.”

At the showing of the Rights of Nature film were Declan Owens, environmental lawyer, Eco Justice Ireland; Angela Drayne, Dolmens Climate Action Newtwork; Michel Poboth, Newcastle Community Cinema, and Joanne Cunningham, QUB. (Photos by Jim Masson/Down News.)

He explained that recognising the Rights of Nature could entail, for example, providing legal ‘personhood’ to the Mourne Mountains to protect them against harms (or breaches of their rights) by Government or businesses.  “If corporations have legal personhood, why can mountains not be granted such rights under the law?” he added.

During the discussion, Declan pointed out that we have precious little ancient woodland left on the island of Ireland, and what remains is under threat. Woodland such as the forests near Rostrevor are threatened by damaging development.


“Under the Rights of Nature, there would be a recognition that the Rostrevor forest is a living ecosystem that has a right not to be destroyed.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful also to see the Rights of the River Quoile recognised?  This could entail the right to flow, to be free from pollution, to be restored and to thrive, the right for the wildlife to prosper. The Rights of Nature would ensure that if forests are the Earth’s lungs, the rivers are her arteries then they should be free to flow.”

Declan Owens formed Ecojustice Ireland ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. He argues that we are in a climate emergency and that there needs to be urgent actions undertaken to secure ecojustice and a Just Transition in County Down as elsewhere.  He is a member of Extinction Rebellion and supports activists such as those taking direct action with Insultate Britain and Just Stop Oil.  

At the discussion following the screening of the documentary, some participants argued for a gradualist approach whereby each individual looks within themselves and does what they can. However, he felt that this is an emergency of the environment where we do not have the luxury of time to ponder over the issues.

“Some people will feel this way towards a softer, progressive action, but I would argue strongly in favour of collective action by trade unions and local community activists to achieve effective ecojustice. There have been significant advances for justice in other spheres of life and the progressive recognition of human rights following the actions of campaigners in the past.

“There is no doubt that this documentary has stimulated further debate on climate change and biodiversity loss in County Down and has done so from an innovative perspective. 

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are presently considering the Rights of Nature motion brought by Councillors Mark Gibbons and seconded by Andrew McMurray following lobbying by Rights of Nature campaigners such as Ecojustice Ireland and Rostrevor Actions Respecting the Environment (RARE). 

Declan Owens added: “It remains to be seen whether their vision of the legal recognition of the Rights of Nature can been firmly rooted in County Down, but myself and my fellow campaigners are determined to re-think the way we see Nature and how we act to protect it in light of the climate emergency we now face.”

Some of the participants in the energy discussion for climate change organised by the Dolmens Climate Action Group held at Turnip House near Leitrim.

Dolmens Climate Action Group Run Well Attended Events For Their Ecofestival.

The Dolmens Climate Action Group have run a number of excellent events over recent days to raise awareness about the need for urgently addressing climate change.

At an evening dinner held at Turnip House just outside Leitrim, attendees participated in a table discussion about energy and the many ways we can help conserve energy. It was a lively discussion which covered many aspects from insulation, wind turbines, domestic food ingesters, solar panels, and much more demonstrating that creativity can grow from the bottom up given the right settings and local involvement.

Check out the website for the Dolmens Climate Action Newtwork on: