Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Review of White Paper on Irish Aid: Statements, Questions and Answers


4:00 pm

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)

The establishment of the Shannon hub forms part of the programme of Government and, therefore, the Government is committed to pursuing it. I have asked for a feasibility study to be undertaken to progress it. The tenders are in and it will take approximately two months to come up with the report. Those involved will consult widely, including with those in the new set-up at Shannon Airport when the proposed changes are implemented. For a long time the airport's administrators have sought independence in order that they can develop more freely. I met them during the discussions on the hub and they are anxious that the project be undertaken to enhance the capacity of the area. The airport has the capacity to take aircraft of all sizes and has significant depot facilities and so on.

It is too early to say what the response of the European Union will be in the context of funding or otherwise. We will make a formal proposal to it when it is ready. I have spoken to Commissioner Andris Piebalgs who is awaiting our proposal. The initial discussions were cordial on the Union having its own hub where other member states as well as Ireland could locate humanitarian aid, including food supplies, tents, vaccines and so on, to be quickly transported to disaster zones, as needed. It is a good idea; Shannon Airport would be an ideal location for such a European hub.

It is early days so far as the agricultural fund is concerned. Officials are engaged in more of a scoping examination initially to establish the areas on which the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine can liaise with the agriculture Departments in Tanzania and Kenya to examine agricultural issues, methods and the potential for growth. The idea is to work on these issues and assist these countries to grow and process food to the standard necessary for it to be exported to the EU market. Kenya, for example, is a major producer of coffee, but all of the processing is done in South Africa. In terms of added value, it is packaged, processed and sold through South Africa, rather than Kenya. This needs to change if an economy is to be developed in Kenya and the same applies to Tanzania. This could be quickly replicated in every African country if we had the resources and could encourage them to do so. We have high quality programmes which are more about quality than quantity. A good quality programme could be replicated easily without having to spend a significant amount. The same would be true if we could encourage other Departments to shadow and liaise with their counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania to provide the benefit of their experience to ensure a pragmatic relationship between the various Departments. This could prove enormously beneficial in dealing with issues of aid, good governance and administration but also in dealing with trade, development and investment matters down the road. Some of these countries could do with our expertise.

The millennium development goals will be reviewed in September 2013. A lot of water will pass under the bridge before 2016 when the new goals will be implemented. Much of our current thinking will feed into this because we will have the benefit from the outset of the review process of having completred our own review. We should, therefore, be reasonably creative with our proposals because we undertook a wide consultation process, involving all of the stakeholders. It is too early to say in what direction the review will move, but this is an exciting period. It is only the beginning of the review of overseas development aid which will take place all over the world. Fortunately or otherwise, we are the first to start down that road; therefore, we will be able to feed into the reviews of other countries.


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