The Irish Government has no plans to follow the British Government and match public donations for the Asian tsunami disaster with Exchequer funding, it emerged tonight.
Foreign Affairs minister Dermot Ahern told the Dáil that the official Cabinet pledge of €20m was not capped but he had no immediate plans to increase that amount.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he will release equivalent exchequer funds to equal the final total raised by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DeC), which has already reached £100m (€163m).
Mr Ahern referred to other countries who failed to honour such pledges for other humanitarian disasters in the past.
He promised: “If Ireland makes a pledge, we fulfil it and we fully commit to it.”
He said the amount of money donated worldwide was four times the amount given to any previous disaster and most aid agencies have closed their appeals.
Sinn Féin raised the matter in the Dáil when Deputy Aengus O’Snodaigh suggested that Mr Ahern should follow the example of the British Government and match private donations.
He described the Irish Government’s contribution as “miserly” and added: “It is a good position that the British government has and it should be adopted by the Irish Government. It would be popular and it would be right.”
Junior Foreign Affairs minister Conor Lenihan said that it was “pretty astounding” to hear Mr O’Snodaigh describe the Government’s contribution as “miserly”.
He went on: “On a per capita basis, Ireland remains one of the most generous countries on earth in response to this crisis.”
He quoted world bank president Jim Wolfensohn who said recently that he was “deeply impressed” by Ireland’s contribution from both public donations and Exchequer funds.
He said to Mr O’Snodaigh: “I admire your ability to agree with the British government for a change and maybe we’ll see more of the same in the weeks and months ahead on other issues.”