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Restore vital aid to the world’s poor

An open letter to the Minister for Finance, Mr Brian Lenihan TD

Dear Minister,

In your budget you have cut the overseas development aid allocation by a further €100 million, the fourth cut since July last, thus reducing the overall aid budget for 2009 by over €250 million. This decision has been taken despite repeated promises to the developing countries, even since this crisis began, that Ireland will fulfil its commitment to the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP as aid by 2012. This is now a forlorn hope.

This decision has also been taken in full confidence that there will be no marches in the streets of Dublin as we witnessed last October, with the consequent climb down by government on medical cards and the employment levy on the lower paid. No, those that would march are thousands of miles away in their parched fields and slum dwellings, too busy eking out a living. They represent an easy target.

But let us imagine that the march is taking place. Thousands of Africans, Asians and Latin Americans — poor farmers, mothers and their hungry children, unemployed men from the immense cities, people living with HIV – have gathered at the Garden of Remembrance. They begin their slow walk down O’Connell Street, filling one side of the carriageway. Dublin’s citizens watch this procession with growing horror at their plight — poor, hungry, angry at their powerlessness.

They read their posters: “Ireland, Keep Your Promises”; “We Want Justice not Charity; “Where is our Share?” and many begin to join the throng.

As they reach your office in Merrion Street, minister, the crowd has multiplied many times. They are there now. Can’t you hear them?

Go to your window and see them, angry, let down again. You can see the poverty of their existence, hear their calls for justice.

The television cameras have now arrived and this scene is being witnessed around the world on live TV news. Ireland’s breach of promise to the world’s poorest people has been cruelly exposed.

Could any government not yield to such pressure? For God’s sake, minister, put the money back.

Justin Kilcullen




Co Kildar


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