Dáil debates

Thursday, 2 June 2005

Priority Questions.

Overseas Development Aid.

3:00 pm

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs when Ireland will meet the UN target for overseas development aid; the timescale for the decentralisation of Development Cooperation Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18794/05]

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The allocation for 2005 provides for an increase of €70 million in Government spending on official development assistance this year. This will bring total Government aid to the developing world to approximately €545 million in 2005. This is the highest allocation in the 30-year history of our overseas aid programme. In addition, the Government has agreed to provide further increases of €65 million in each of the years 2006 and 2007. These substantial increases mean that over the three years from 2005 to 2007, €1.8 billion will be spent by Ireland on development assistance. As a result, Ireland will maintain its position as one of the world's leading aid donors on a per capita basis. In addition, this three-year multi-annual commitment, incorporating substantial annual increases, gives my Department a sound basis to carry forward the long-term planning which is so important for development work.

Ireland has successfully focused its aid programme on the needs of the poorest people in the poorest countries. Ireland is one of only six countries to have surpassed the target, endorsed by the UN, of contributing at least 0.15% of gross national product in overseas development assistance to the world's least developed countries. The Government remains strongly committed to achieving the UN target for expenditure on ODA. The issue of how best to meet the target and in what timeframe is under ongoing review.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, announced in December 2003, the development co-operation directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, currently based in Dublin, is scheduled to be decentralised to Limerick. This will involve the relocation to Limerick of 123 posts and is scheduled to take place during the first quarter of 2007. Details of applications received for the posts in question, excluding applications from civil servants already serving in Limerick, are set out in the table accompanying this reply.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The Department is working closely with the Office of Public Works to identify suitable accommodation for the directorate in Limerick and it is hoped to select a premises in the near future. Pending this, it is not possible to estimate savings or additional costs.

The various issues arising from the Government decision, both for the Department in general and for the development co-operation directorate, in particular, are considered in the Department's decentralisation implementation plan. Risk analysis carried out by the directorate in this context has identified the following as the main risk factors, and for which appropriate risk mitigation strategies are being implemented: financial, including accountability and control; human resources, including loss of expertise and institutional memory; communications between the directorate and internal and external stakeholders; and associated operational and reputational risks. The implementation plan, which has been published on the Department's website www.dfa.ie, was recently revised to take account of the decision to include the directorate among the early movers.

I am making available the following table detailing applications via the central applications facility for DCD posts in Limerick.

Applications via the Central Applications Facility (CAF) for DCD posts in Limerick.
Specialist GradesNumber of posts advertised on the CAFNumber of applications from within the DirectorateDCD applications as a percentage of total postsApplications from elsewhere in the DepartmentApplications received via the CAF by 7 September 2004Applications received via the CAF since 7 September 2004Total received to date
%
Principal Development Specialist3000000
Senior Development Specialist122170002
Development Specialist99 (Note 1)1000009
Financial Controller1000000
Non-Specialist Grades
Counsellor /Principal Officer7000426
First Secretary /Assistant Principal Officer19316012621
Higher Executive Officer / Administrative Officer1417125128
Third Secretary42502004
Executive Officer16319323837
Staff Officer2001304
Clerical Officer3313419327
Services Officer3001001
Totals1232117128620139
Note 1: Figure for applications from within DCD includes development specialists employed since the announcement of decentralisation and whose contracts specify that the posts are being relocated to Limerick.
Note 2: It should be noted that the above table only includes details of first preference applications. Now that details of the early movers are available, all applicants will in the near future be given an opportunity to amend their first preferences.
Note 3: The table excludes, inter alia, applications from public service employees whose grade equivalency remains to be clarified.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I would like to see the table, but that is another story. Is the Minister of State not embarrassed by his recent statement welcoming the European Union's commitment to attaining the 0.7% GNP target by 2010? Will he give me a straight answer to a straight question? Will that target of 0.7% of GNP, which was reneged on by the Taoiseach after he gave that commitment at the United Nations in 2000, be reached by 2008, 2010, 2012 or 2015? Can the Minister of State tell me on what date this target will be reached? Is he embarrassed by the fact that he welcomed the EU's lead, while some months ago both he and the Taoiseach claimed they were taking the lead on overseas aid?

As regards the decentralisation of the development co-operation directorate, does the Minister agree that none of the ten management staff is among those who have offered to go to Limerick? The move to Limerick will decimate the DCD unit which has strong expertise in dealing with Third World countries and non-governmental organisations. The work of the DCD will be severely hampered by the attempts to force its staff out of Dublin where much of the work is being done.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for his comments but there are a number of inaccuracies in the questions he posed. At a recent meeting in Brussels of the 25 EU Ministers with responsibility for overseas development, I was proud and delighted that the EU committed itself, en bloc, to a target date of achieving the millennium development goal figure of 0.7% of GNP, or GNI as it is now called——

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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By when?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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——before 2015. That is in line with the UN commitment and requirement posited by——

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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What about the Minister of State's promise?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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It is important to understand the basis of the decision made in Brussels and why it is so welcome.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State claimed there were inaccuracies in my questions, but what inaccuracies?

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Please allow the Minister of State to continue without interruption.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Europe has taken the lead. In addition, within the European Council of Development Ministers and the Council of Foreign Ministers, Ireland has taken a major lead in this regard. Along with many other small donor countries, Ireland prompted the move to have a clear European target. The 2010 date referred to by Deputy Allen is, in fact, the interim target date. The 15 old EU member states — as distinct from the ten new ones which have a different target figure and timeframe — are required to reach an interim target of 0.51% of GNI by 2010, leading to full achievement.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is worse than I thought.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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It is not worse than the Deputy thought. Ireland is among a small number of those 15 countries which are either on that figure or well on the way to achieving it. Our overseas development aid programme has tripled in size since we got into Government in 1997. Ireland is the ninth largest donor in the world, with 50% of that expenditure going to the poorest countries on Earth. That is a great achievement for which Ireland has been positively evaluated internationally. There were two non-governmental assessments of our overseas development aid programme in the last week or two. One such assessment ranked us second in the world, while the other ranked us first in terms of practice and roll-out of the programme.

I want to answer some of the questions the Deputy raised cornering the decentralisation of the development co-operation directorate to Limerick, because they contained some numerical inaccuracies.

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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We are running out of time for this question.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to clarify the picture and be totally open with the House in terms of the figures involved.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I am quoting union sources — IMPACT.

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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May I remind both Deputies that there are other questions which are equally important?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I am not doing any disservice to that union but I think the situation is clear. There are 123 staff to be moved to Limerick. Some 114 people have applied in the first round to be part of that move. Therefore, we have received 114 applications to go to Limerick. Some 35 of those are from within the Department of Foreign Affairs and 19 of those 35 are from the development co-operation division that I supervise.

The Deputy may be confused about the specialists. We have 23 development specialists based in the development co-operation division's headquarters here in Dublin. Some 11 of those 23 have volunteered to go to Limerick. I understand the Deputy's motivation in raising this issue. It is a matter of concern that this move to Limerick should not disrupt or put in jeopardy our well developed overseas development assistance programme. I am glad to inform the House that the current director general, who was previously our ambassador in Vienna, was brought back just prior to my taking office last September. He was brought back deliberately so that we could have a smooth transition to Limerick. That man, the most senior official in the Department, has volunteered to go to Limerick. That is one of the reasons he was brought back. In the past week we have had two additional, extra counsellor-rank people coming into the section to boost and assist in the transition.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I wish the Minister of State would give shorter answers, so that we could ask supplementary questions. This is almost like a filibuster.