Ireland must use wealth to help ease ‘extraordinary suffering’ across the world

Simon Coveney made the comments at the launch of the Irish Aid Annual report at Iveagh House in Dublin on Tuesday.
Ireland must use wealth to help ease ‘extraordinary suffering’ across the world

By Michelle Devane, PA

The need for Ireland to share its wealth is greater than ever, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney said €1.22 billion will be spent on overseas development aid next year to ease the “extraordinary suffering” across the world and “keep people alive”.

He made the comments at the launch of the Irish Aid Annual report at Iveagh House in Dublin on Tuesday.

Supporting global access to vaccines, responding to complex humanitarian crises, and committing to more than double climate finance were among the key achievements of the Government’s overseas development assistance (ODA) programme in 2021, according to the report.

In total the State invested a record €967 million in overseas development assistance last year, up from €868 million in 2020.

It surpasses the previous high of €921 million spent in 2008.

“Despite all of the pressures we do face domestically from cost of living, the Government is giving a very strong statement that we are serious about sharing Ireland’s wealth with other parts of the world that desperately need our partnership, our knowledge and our financial resources,” Mr Coveney said.

“The need is stronger than I can ever remember in my 25 years in politics.

“If you look at the Horn of Africa at the moment, tittering on the brink of famine with millions of people potentially at risk of starvation or malnutrition we’re putting tens of millions of euro directly into trying to prevent that.

“If you look at the climate emergency that continues, Ireland has committed to spending €225 million a year every year in relation to climate finance.

“A big focus on adaptation as well as mitigation in that spend. Our department will spend an extra €25 million on climate finance next year.”

The 2021 report showed the Republic contributed €92 million to climate finance last year and committed to increase that figure to €225 million annually by 2025.

It also showed the State pledged five million vaccines to people in low income countries, as well as providing €8.5 million to Covax to support vaccine procurement and administration.

Ireland’s first vaccine donation took place in September 2021 when 335,000 vaccines were delivered to Uganda, with further quantities delivered to Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia.

Almost €230 million was invested in responding to humanitarian disasters in 2021, including those caused by conflict and climate change.

Mr Coveney added: “It’s been an extraordinary period in terms of instability across the globe and the human cost of that, most recently from the illegal and brutal war in Ukraine, which is having an impact right across the world.

“We are seeing extraordinary suffering and Ireland as a wealthy country has got to share that wealth.

“That’s what we’re committing to do from this year into next, spending close on an extra €180 million, spending €1.22 billion of Irish taxpayers' money on partnerships and support structures and in some cases just direct assistance to keep people alive.

“And Irish people, I hope, will be proud and supportive of those political decisions.”

'Moral obligation'

The Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, said there is a “moral obligation” on rich countries like Ireland to be willing “to help those who have nothing” in other countries.

He said the people in the Horn of Africa are on the verge of “cataclysmic famine” and that he saw “first hand the most harrowing scenes” when he visited the region in recent weeks.

“The Irish Government has stepped up and it has been to the front in providing funding and support to the wonderful NGOs on the ground,” he said.

“We’ve worked in close partnership with US aid and Samantha Power who have also been very heavily involved in supporting the Horn of Africa and resources going there. But more countries need to get involved.

“We cannot have a situation where we wait until we have famine on the scale of what we saw in Ethiopia in the Bob Geldof era in the late 1980s.

“We can’t wait for that.We need to intervene now.”

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