Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

Tsunami Disaster: Statements.


12:00 pm

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)

No, he did not quite say that. I do not intend to waste my time challenging Senator Dardis's interruptions. The impact of the wave was significantly less in areas in which mangrove swamps had not been removed to create beaches. The impact of the wave under the surface of the sea was minimised in areas where the despoliation of coral reefs had not taken place.

I understand that less than 50% of moneys pledged following most disasters are eventually received, which is utterly shameful. The Minister of State will recall that I suggested at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs that there should be a tracking mechanism. I am glad the Minister of State strongly endorsed my view today.

The Minister of State praised the Irish people, who showed themselves to be remarkably generous following the disaster. The people donated €50 million and the Government donated €20 million. I would like to analyse those figures later. Our donations pall in comparison to the extraordinary generosity of the people of East Timor, who gave $50,000 to Indonesia, which had oppressed and humiliated it and devastated its lands. The donation of $50,000 by such impoverished people represents an extraordinary thing. Xanana Gusmao went to Jakarta to present the money in a move of reconciliation. We need to examine the actions of the Indonesian Government, for example in Aceh, which was struck by the tsunami. The Indonesian Government tried to exclude certain people from the area because it does not want the world to know that problems similar to those in East Timor are developing there. I commend that matter to the Minister's attention.

I am glad that the former US President, Mr. Clinton, has been appointed to oversee the continuing monitoring of the implementation of the donated moneys. It is a very good thing.

The Minister of State has said that the Government is committed to the fight against poverty and the reduction of vulnerability throughout the world. I applaud that statement.

I congratulate the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, for his courage in saying that we need to examine farm subsidies. He was roundly attacked for his statement, but he was absolutely right, especially in respect of sugar beet and all that kind of stuff. If we want to create more fairness throughout the world, we have to accept some readjustment and pain in this country. It was marvellous that Archbishop Martin had the courage to make such a statement. He was absolutely right.

Ireland will contribute overseas development aid of €1.8 billion over the next three years, compared to €3.8 billion under the special incentive savings scheme. Our ODA allocation is not such an enormous amount of money. Ireland is a very rich country which can well afford to donate it. I do not accept that we should derogate from the 0.7% commitment. We should support the Minister of State's fight at Cabinet level to secure 0.7% of GNP. I do not accept for a second that we should reduce the allocation to 0.5% by 2007. Such a reduction, which has been implied, would be a real shame. I will not accept it. I will fight against it as hard as I can.

The Government responded efficiently and rapidly in the days immediately after the disaster. It acted on the immediate need for assistance by making an immediate allocation of €2 million. It is a pity, however, that some subsequent decisions were delayed as we awaited the return of the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern. The delay at that time was unhelpful and not in line with good practice. It is good to get news from the front, but many NGOs feel that the delay was regrettable and should not be repeated.

Reports in the media claimed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that specific emphasis will be placed on what he described as "indigenous Irish NGOs". Such a phrase can easily slip out, but I would like to ask some questions about it. What is meant by "indigenous Irish NGOs"? Is a criterion of specific Irishness being introduced? I am glad that the Minister of State is shaking his head, but I would like him to place his thoughts on the matter on the record. I would like to think that the relevant criteria are those stemming from agreed international best practice. I refer to the usual things like needs capacity, local track record and the use of local capacity. I am glad the Minister of State is now nodding in agreement.

The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, was also quoted in the media as saying that the first €10 million pledged by the Government was additional money and that the second pledge was taken from the DCI's emergency aid fund. As the Minister of State knows, when this matter was raised at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, it was explained that the fund would be replenished, which I welcome. I understand and accept that fully. Can the Minister of State explain the process that the replenishment will involve? We would like some of the detail of the replenishment to be fleshed out.

Will the Minister of State clarify whether this replenishment will take place before or after the finalisation of the Finance Bill in the Oireachtas? Does the Minister intend to publish the decisions on emergency aid in full? DCI only publishes the total amount of funding and not a breakdown of its distribution among the various recipients, including the various UN organisations and NGOs. From their point of view and in terms of planning, it would be a great help if we had such a breakdown. I commend the Minister on his efforts.


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