By Hans Zomer
In his article in the Sunday Times on the 5th July Conor Brady called on the nation to ‘remember who we are and commit to overseas aid’.
Mr Brady highlights the fact that Ireland has yet to meet its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. A “solemn commitment” our Governments have made repeatedly and included in every Programme for Government over more than a decade.
So far we have failed, repeatedly, to honour that promise - a promise we made as a country to our peers and to the most vulnerable people on Earth. During the Celtic Tiger, we failed to honour the promise because we were told our economy was growing too fast. Then it was shrinking too fast. And now, once more, we are told that we are moving away from our aid promise because once more our economy is growing…
On July 8th, the Government will present its annual report on Irish Aid, and that report will show that we have fallen well below the 0.4% mark – a level of aid Mr. Brady reminds us is the lowest in 14 years. The evidence is clear: unless there is a clear end date, and clear interim targets, the Government’s repeated assurances of our national “commitment” to the UN target are not going to be enough to achieve this, admittedly difficult, target.
And this is where Mr. Brady’s main point comes into its own. Ultimately, fulfilling the aid promise is not a question of whether our economy is growing or not. Rather, it is a statement of intent. It is the most tangible way in which Ireland can say to the world that we believe in a shared future and that we are willing to pay our membership fee of the international community of nations. Our aid promise is our way of showing that we believe in solidarity and that this solidarity is not of the fair-weather kind.
The Celtic Tiger and the economic crash that followed have given us time to re-evaluate, to take stock and assess who we are as a nation and who we aspire to be.
Almost 100 years after we won our independence, we now have that power to choose our own course and stand up for what we believe in, to fight for equal rights and opportunities for all, so that every man woman and child has the chance to live a full and dignified life, no matter where they are born. And who knows what we can achieve, what kind of world tomorrow could bring, if we just take these necessary first steps.
It’s time to recommit to aid.