Northern Ireland schoolgirl Olivia Devaney strikes a chord with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Kids Climate Press Conference

A question from a Co Down schoolgirl at a climate change press conference with the prime minister evoked an impassioned response.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 2:05 pm
Updated Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:36 pm
Olivia Devaney asks Prime Minister Boris Johnson a question at the Kids Climate Press Conference

Olivia Devaney asked Boris Johnson how he proposed to encourage people and businesses to cut down the use of plastic which finds its way into the oceans and kills animals.

During the Kids Climate Press Conference which was broadcast on the 10 Downing Street YouTube channel, the seven-year-old said that her mum uses a reusable cup, she uses a reusable bottle and the family use plastic free toothbrushes.

“What are we going to do to make sure that people and businesses use less plastic?” she asked the prime minister at the children-only press conference this morning.

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Olivia Devaney taking part in the Kids Climate Press Conference

Mr Johnson commended her actions and said that reusable items were a much better solution than recycling.

“The issue with plastic is – recycling isn’t the answer,” he said.

“Recycling doesn’t begin to address the problem. You can only recycle plastic a couple of times really.

“What you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic. The recycling thing is a red herring.

“You’re quite right in what you say about the damage to marine wildlife. We’ve all got to cut down on our use of plastic. I think that’s the only answer.”

WWF UK’s chief executive Tanya Steele, who appeared beside Mr Johnson at the press conference, said: “We have to reduce, we have to reuse – I do think we need to do a little bit of recycling, PM, and have some system to do so.”

Mr Johnson replied: “It doesn’t work.

“People think we can recycle our way out of the problem, but we’d be making a huge mistake. We need to reduce our use of plastic, we also need to restore the balance of nature.”

Afterwards Olivia, who attends St Francis Primary School in Loughbrickland, said she had been nervous in the lead up to asking her question via videolink: “I think my teacher was watching me – Mrs Macauley – my cousins as well, and my granny. I was a bit nervous.

“I’m feeling happy now because I always wanted to be on YouTube. The butterflies are gone.”

Olivia also goes to Sinead Lunny Speech and Drama in Banbridge. During lockdown she attended classes via zoom and did some of her exams via Zoom as well which gave her the confidence to pose a question to the PM via videolink.

She had applied to ask a question at the conference via First News, the newspaper aimed at seven to 14-year-olds which is being promoted in the News Letter.

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