Thousands take to streets in poverty rally

AID campaigners last night renewed their call to the Government to honour promises made to the world’s poorest as Ireland’s version of Live 8 drew crowds on to the streets of Dublin.

Thousands of demonstrators attended the Make Poverty History rally, which began with a march through the city centre and ended with a concert at Merrion Square within earshot of Government Buildings.

Broadcaster Joe Duffy was MC and the line-up of entertainers included the Devlins, Hothouse Flowers, Mundy, the Walls and a performance by gospel choirs from around the city, while speakers included representatives of African campaign groups.

One of the speakers, Justin Kilcullen, director of aid and development agency Trócaire, said the crowds gathered at the start an historic week for relations between the world’s poorest and wealthiest countries.

He called on the Government to play their part in history by making a fresh commitment to meeting the UN target of donating 0.7% of annual GNP to overseas aid and development.

Ireland pledged in 2000 to reach the target by 2007 but will not now do so.

Mr Kilcullen said: “There are efforts being made to really put together a realistic response from the wealthy countries to the poor and we want Ireland to be at the heart of that.

“All we have to show today is a broken promise.

“As the world leaders are gathering we have no indication from our Government as to what role Ireland is going to play. That is not good enough. We are demanding a response from the Government that reflects that and the presence of so many on the street.

“The Irish people had a fantastic tradition of relations with the developing world that goes back to our missionary endeavours, and it has always been characterised by solidarity and generosity.

“What we want is a commitment to reach the UN target by 2010 at the latest and we want legislation in place to ensure we will never renege on that promise.

“We are saying to the Taoiseach and to the Government, listen to the people and do what is required of you.”

The Government was not formally represented at the rally, which was organised by Dóchas, the umbrella organisation of non-governmental groups involved in development work and relief overseas.

The events marked the start of a week-long campaign based around the G8 Summit of world leaders in Edinburgh. Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concerts will be run simultaneously in 10 countries to kick off the campaign this weekend.

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