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Irish Aid Must Not Be Used To Prop Up Corrupt Regimes

Posted on: November 15th, 2007

It is commendable that Ireland’s aid level is approaching the goal of 0.7% of GNP, and that we are giving €800 million towards developing countries. However, when the Minister came to the Seanad to discuss Ireland’s aid strategy, it was depressing that he made no reference to how the Government distributes that aid. Poverty relief is important, but beyond this it is vital that funds go into the hands of those who are committed to democracy, and not to propping up corrupt regimes in Zimbabwe and Uganda. This is what I told the House:

One of the great virtues of GOAL and John O’Shea was that he pointed out, to the great embarrassment of successive Governments, that money may be going towards the relief of poverty but it was going through the hands of tyrants at the time and that it was not getting into the hands of those whom we wished it to get to. That may have been difficult for Governments at the time but it served an enormous purpose.

I ask, especially in regard to sub-Saharan Africa, about which we are talking, that the Government carefully examines the giving of aid to countries such as Uganda… It is appropriate we continue to ensure the money that is going to Zimbabwe via the United Nations does not find itself in the hands of the tyrannical regime of Robert Mugabe. I know it is very difficult to draw that particular dividing line in determining whether this money is to go towards the relief of poverty or to the person in charge. Nonetheless it is a definitive line which the Government should look at very carefully.

It is also very appropriate to pay tribute, as several Senators have done, to those Irish missionaries in particular who have done so much for the relief of poverty and the promotion of education. It is immensely fashionable these days to knock the Roman Catholic Church for reasons which are often peripheral to its main activities. It is only fair to say that its representatives have done immense humane work.

I think of the Philippines, Africa and the whole world, not least in the area of education, which the Minister of State mentioned in his speech. It would be wrong not to pay tribute to those people who have contributed from that particular area. Trócaire, too, should be mentioned in passing as it is after all a Catholic Church-inspired organisation.

I ask the Minister of State in his reply perhaps to speak somewhat more about the measures he is taking to ensure corrupt regimes do not receive Irish aid. I ask him to clarify whether he is certain, even if the aid is going through the United Nations, it is not contributing to sustaining corrupt regimes and that it is going to the right people and the relief of the poverty he so rightly wants to tackle.

It would be churlish and wrong not to say we are proud of the record of this country now in its contribution to the Third World. It should, however, be remembered that Third World countries are not always ruled by governments which have the interests of their people at heart.