Ireland’s new target on delivering Third World aid will only be decided after the Government’s public spending priorities are fully considered, it was claimed today.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is due to announce a new deadline for achieving 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Aid at the UN World Summit in New York on Wednesday.
The previous 2007 deadline pledged in 2000 by the Government was not possible because economic growth slowed quicker than anticipated.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern today said that if the 0.7% had been reached by 2007 it would have meant unsustainable increases in the aid budget of €350m in both 2006 and 2007.
He said the level of these increases were ’astronomical’ when compared to last year’s €70m budget increase for accident and emergency services.
“It just wouldn’t be possible in the context of the Exchequer position because of competing demands,” he explained.
He pointed out that the Government had trebled the ODA budget from €140m in 1997 to €550m now.
Amid mounting pressure from the Opposition, the Catholic Church and the MakePovertyHistory campaign, Mr Ahern refused to confirm whether the Government would opt for a 2010 deadline.
“You have to understand the difficulties of being in government in that you have to balance up the priorities.”
“We will again indicate the year that we will expect given all the competing priorities,” he said.
Earlier, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Sean Brady, said the church had been disappointed that the promise had not been honoured.
“We’re urging them to be generous and courageous because we believe that they won’t regret it.
“The Government would be surprised by how much support it would get from the ordinary people if they just take their courage in its hands and keeps firm to its promises.”
He added: “It will send out the message that Ireland is not just outstanding for peacemaking and brokering EU Constitutions, but that we can play an important role in justice-making and bringing an end to poverty.
Mr Ahern will also present UN secretary general Kofi Annan with a report on his role as Special Envoy which has taken him over 70,000 miles across Europe.
Since late April he has held talks with 46 foreign ministers in 22 countries on key UN reforms, including the controversial expansion of the Security Council.
“Ensuring that the UN becomes more responsive, effective and accountable will require compromise and effort all round,” he said.