Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, on the 2005 Estimates, Dáil Éireann, 25 November, 2004 Part I
Ceann Comhairle, With your permission, I propose to share my time with my colleague, Batt O’Keeffe, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
This is the first Estimates debate I have participated in as Minister for Foreign Affairs. And I came to this process with three key objectives. These were:
• to achieve a very significant increase in the allocation to Overseas Development Aid;
• to double the resources for our emigrants abroad, and
• to continue to develop a state of the art passport service and to provide a visa service both of which would reach the highest international standards.
I am very happy to say that all three objectives are reflected in the 2005 Estimates.
The 2005 Estimate for the Department of Foreign Affairs consists of two Votes: €166 million for Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and €460 million for Vote 29 (International Cooperation or Overseas Development Assistance).
I do not want to anticipate what my colleague will say. Nonetheless, I will say that the allocation in the Estimates for ODA is hugely significant.
We have allocated €60 million extra this year.
Our total ODA commitment in 2005 will reach €535 million when the contributions of other Government Departments are factored in. This is the highest amount ever allocated in the history of the aid programme and well above the EU average.
We are committed to increasing Ireland’s ODA contribution by an additional €65 million in 2006 and again by another €65 million again in 2007. By any standards this is an absolutely massive amount. We have gone from a budget of €96 million to ODA in 1997, to €475 million this year and €665 million estimated in 2007. Indeed, we will be spending €1.8 billion in total over the next three years.
What is more, and this has been absent from the debate in recent times, Ireland has a very proud record in development aid. We have a top class programme whose excellence is internationally recognised. We have been increasing our assistance every year. We do not link our trade to aid as other states do. Our programmes are focussed on the poorest and most vulnerable. They are having a positive impact on countless individual lives in Africa, in particular.
We will continue these efforts now and into the future, working closely with the NGO community, and embracing new groups who are already doing great work and deserve our support.
Turning to Vote 28 for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputies will note that the €166 million allocation for 2005 is down slightly on the 2004 allocation. This is due to a special once-off allocation in 2004 for the European Union Presidency. This, obviously, is not required in 2005.