Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Review of White Paper on Irish Aid: Statements, Questions and Answers
Joe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
No, that issue did not come up. I do not believe that is an issue in Malawi. One issue raised was the fact that in 2010 Malawi passed a Bill making lesbianism illegal. They passed the legislation because they already had an Act which made homosexuality illegal and they sought to provide equality in respect of making female homosexuality illegal as well. We explained to the Minister the manner we decriminalised homosexuality, the degree of opposition faced and how far we have come in the space of two decades in recognising this human right for the person. He was prepared to take it but only after he had seen the pragmatic side and the way another country addressed the matter in that fashion. The idea in theory was that they were giving equality in reverse.
A question was asked about what we can do to encourage trade. We are very much involved in this at present. Enterprise Ireland has been put on notice about our engagement in Africa. Enterprise Ireland established its office in South Africa only recently. There may well be another office established in the not too distant future in one or more areas further north in Africa. The relevant countries have been informed by our embassies that advice is available from our State agencies about trade and investment and that we can conduct business in various forms. We can do it through video-conferencing. That is one way. It can also be done by going directly through our embassies and getting the materials and doing a video conference in our embassy with the various State agencies. These meetings are used to discuss best practice in dealing with trade matters and so on. Those interested in Africa in our private sector are informed as well. A large number of Irish companies have expressed an interest and are involved, and new companies have expressed an interest as well. They are being given all the advice and assistance possible. The only thing we are not doing is giving them Irish Aid money for trade grants. That remains ring-fenced for aid. I believe we will continue to operate as we are at present in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas that are the poorest in the world. I believe this is what the Irish people want us to do for the future.