Seanad Éireann debates Ireland’s development policy

23/05/2013 at 9:54 am 3 comments

On 9 May, exactly one week after the Government launched its new “Policy for International Development”, the Seanad debated the new policy with Minister Joe Costello. (Read the policy statement here)

The debate provided an interesting insight into political, and public, attitudes to overseas aid:

  • Senator Mark Daly (FF) quoted an MRBI opinion poll that shows that 88% of people in Ireland are proud of Ireland’s development aid programme. But he queried why such a large proportion of Ireland’s ODA is channelled through multilateral organisations.

“I proposed that at the very least, the interest we are being charged on the €600 million we are borrowing for our overseas aid programme should be taken into account when we are giving it back to European Union institutions.”

  • Fine Gael’s Senator Michael Mullins quoted Dóchas’ Director and welcomed the Government’s emphasis on transparency, accountability and climate change.

“Although we face significant economic difficulties, the majority of Irish people want the Government to provide aid to the world’s poorest people, but they want taxpayers’ money to be spent effectively and to be accounted for properly.”

  • Senator Lorraine Higgins (Labour) emphasised that Ireland’s economic future is linked to our exports, and welcomed the Policy’s focus volunteering, transparency and sustainability.

“I recognise the important role it plays on humanitarian grounds but also the significant part it plays in keeping Ireland’s international reputation right up there among the greatest benevolent countries in the world. We, the Irish people, should be incredibly proud of our achievements and the difference we are making in the lives of thousands, if not millions, of the world’s poorest people.”

“The effect of our commitment to development issues cannot be underestimated when it comes to building political capital with other countries worldwide.”

  • Senator Mary Ann O’Brien (Ind) wondered if Ireland could afford to be a leader among EU member states when it comes to aid quantity.

“I propose that we reduce the allocation of €600 million temporarily until we achieve economic stability but increase our sharing of our knowledge, technical brilliance and expertise.”

  • Independent Senator Feargal Quinn combined a reflection on ways to increase the effectiveness of aid with a suggestion that more aid should be dedicated to investment in businesses.

“I congratulate the Minister of State on what he is doing and I urge that we hold our resolve and maintain the standards we have reached.”

  • Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill (FF) said that developing countries are poor because of corruption and Ireland cannot afford to continue to give aid, especially as there is evidence that the aid is not well spent.

“Western countries are reducing aid going to foreign countries because of the lack of dividend being obtained in those donor countries.”

  • Senator David Cullinane (SF) made a passionate case for why Ireland must continue to address global poverty, through aid and other policies. He also asked what the Government was doing to promote greater collaboration among aid agencies.

“There is a responsibility on us, notwithstanding the considerable problems and the economic crisis in the State, to maintain the levels of funding for international aid while looking to ensure, for example, that there are more progressive taxation systems to look after, as was the previous speaker put, ‘our own’.”

“We all are conscious of the significant inequalities and injustices which exist in the world, and the considerable poverty and deprivation which exists in the poorer parts of the world, and international development is a crucially important area. Many of these inequalities are not historical legacies. They also are structural and, ultimately, it will take considerable domestic political changes in many countries and internationally to tackle such inequalities.”

  • Senator Terry Brennan (FG) spoke of the links between Louth and Malawi  and the work the County Council has done without spending money on overheads.

“I appeal to [the Minister] to do his best to maintain the levels of funding provided to less developed and poorer countries.”

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Entry filed under: EU, Government, NGOs, Overseas aid. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. R Storey  |  23/05/2013 at 11:21 am

    The 2012 Aid Transparency Index produced by the global campaign group Publish What you Fund indicates that as suspected Ireland is not meeting basic standards in transparency and accountability for its overseas aid.

    Ireland is rated in the poor category (16th out of 22 donors) and only scores 25 overall compared to the UK score of 91 and is well down the league amongst the usual suspects.

    2012 Index | Publish What You Fund

    Recent opinion polls only show minority support for aid.

    Reply
    • 2. Dóchas  |  24/05/2013 at 4:12 pm

      You are right on the transparency Index scores.
      But what “recent opinion polls” are you referring to, Rob? On-line polls don’t count: they are not representative.
      The most recent reputable polls we are aware of are the MRBI poll of September 2012 and the Amárach poll of November 2012. Both of these show support to be around the 80% mark.

      Reply
      • 3. R Storey  |  26/05/2013 at 12:06 pm

        I realise that you discount on-line polls – pity because they also represent opinion.
        The same survey which is promoted and commissioned by Dóchas found that 54 per cent answered “No” when asked if the Government should invest more than €600 million on overseas aid “when we are cutting back on public services such as healthcare”.
        Those in social groups D&E and the retired did not in the majority support overseas aid – perhaps this grouping are more aware of ODA than the 15 – 24 age range who are the main supporters of ODA.
        I suggest that the headline 80% support for the pledge does not tell the whole story and is misleading when used in isolation from other findings.

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