A giant of Ireland’s environmental movement

The Irish environmental movement has lost another of its champions and passionate advocates with the sad passing of Michael Ewing.

One of Ireland’s great environmentalists, he played a central role in the movement and was a leading figure in the Irish Environmental Network and Environmental Pillar for many years.

In 2008, he was employed by the Irish Environmental Network to build the advocacy coalition of 32 national environmental NGOs that in 2009 became the Environmental Pillar, and the fifth national Social Partner.

In 2010, he was appointed to the additional role of Coordinator of the IEN and was a member of the National Economic and Social Council. He also served as a member of the National Climate Dialogue Advisory Committee, the National Advisory Group for the Public Participation Networks and chair of the Green Party Policy Council.

Michael was always an environmentalist, but he was much more than that. He lived sustainably and organically before it was a movement, and he made friends and built communities wherever he went. He had a keen interest in participatory democracy, social inclusion and sustainable development.

When the Government decided to create Public Participation Networks, Michael was one of the small team of people that were asked to create the structures in a six week time period. His influence over this, especially in the flat democratic structure of the PPNs, is obvious and has been key to the success and influence of the PPNs today.

Described by people who knew him and worked with him as warm, generous, determined and a gentleman, his core skill was as a facilitator with an ability to unite and bring people along. Regularly working 18 hour days, he assisted the disparate members of the IEN and the Pillar to work together and to trust each other so that the environmental movement had a unified voice on environmental matters. This legacy carries on today and the Pillar regularly meets with ministers and officials and nominates people to various bodies. 

Always based in Roscommon Michael used the train journey to and from Dublin to work, send literally hundreds of emails, and hold informal meetings with anyone who had an interest in the environment. Having already done a day’s work before he got off the train he would attend meetings, lobby politicians, seek funding for the IEN, and make connections with people and organisations throughout the country. Then it was back on the train to send more emails and keep working until he got back to Roscommon.

It is impossible to sum up how important Michael was to the environmental movement in Ireland and to the IEN and Environmental Pillar. Without him we would not be where we are today. He was and will remain a keystone of the environmental movement in Ireland. Michael will be sadly missed.

The warm and heartfelt tributes from those in the environmental movement and further afield speak volumes to the high standing in which he was held, what Michael meant to those around him, what he stood for and what he achieved. He will be a huge loss, but his legacy in helping to build a vibrant environmental network and movement and his contribution to sustainable development, social inclusion and local democracy will live on. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.