Irish Government will stay with Central America
The Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid Co-operation, Liz O'Donnell T.D. repeated her commitment to stay on course and to "hold firm" to the trend of increases in the development aid budget established over the last few years.
She accepted that the rapid growth in our GNP has meant that the Overseas Development Assistance outturn in percentage terms is less than projected. In order to deal with this dilemma, the Minister has vowed to maintain "incremental increases so that, at least in cash terms, the budget grows every year". Commenting on the estimates published on Wednesday this week, she said she was "appalled" that we would be forced to cut back. She hoped that "in the context of a caring budget, the Government will address the concerns I expressed last week and again today in this House".
Speaking on the Dail Debate on Hurricane Mitch today, the Minister described the current situation in Central America as "calamitous". "We have all seen the harrowing images of the floods and mudslides which have engulfed lives and homes throughout Central America. It is only right, therefore, that our concern, which reflects the anxieties of the Irish public in this matter, be also voiced in this House".
In response to the disaster, the Government has to date approved £ 400,000. This assistance is being disbursed through Trocaire, APSO, the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation.
During the debate, the Minister said that environmental degradation had aggravated the effects of the disasters. She referred to the tireless and heroic efforts of Irish aid workers, who have had to switch to emergency relief from building employment and community programmes. The Minister stressed the need for long-term rehabilitation assistance and said that she had given a commitment that the Irish Government, together with the international community, would stay with these countries and help increase their capacity to rise out of poverty.