Wednesday, 2 February 2005
Tsunami Disaster: Statements.
John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to the House. Along with myself and a number of other Members of both Houses, he played his part last week when the Oireachtas XI played a football match for the tsunami appeal. We were unsuccessful but at least we succeeded in the overall objective of raising funds. I join with previous speakers who have expressed their gratitude to the Irish people for their tremendous response to the tsunami relief effort. Over €50 million has been collected among the general populace, while the Government is committed to providing a further €20 million for relief in the areas affected by the tsunami.
Previous speakers mentioned the failure of governments other than ours to give money they promised. It is particularly shameful and shocking if people who are desperate are offered monetary help and the offer is not acted upon. I hope that will not happen in this case.
I concur with what other speakers said regarding those who lost their lives as a result of the tsunami. Given the number of Irish people who travel to that part of the world, it is remarkable that more Irish people did not lose their lives. I was shocked to hear from a number of people my age from home whom I know well that most of them had at some time been in some part of south-east Asia. It probably heightened the response of the Irish people that many families have members who have visited the affected region. It is remarkable that so few Irish people were affected. Needless to say, I sympathise with the families who lost loved ones.
There is merit, as many previous speakers have said, in the proposal to focus Irish aid on a specific country or group of countries. The proposal was floated by a number of Senators. It should be considered, and I ask that the Minister investigate it, as sponsoring a particular country could be a more effective way of giving aid.