Most Irish believe overseas aid remains vital

Thu, May 3, 2012, 01:00

A MAJORITY of Irish people believe overseas aid remains important despite the State’s economic crisis, a new survey suggests.

The poll from Ipsos MRBI, commissioned by Dóchas, an umbrella group of more than 40 development organisations, found that 85 per cent of respondents rated overseas aid as “important” or “very important”. The findings mirror a similar survey conducted by Eurobarometer last year, which also found less than half of Irish people believe the Government should increase its overseas aid budget.

Ireland has pledged to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid by 2015. Its aid budget stands at €639 million, or 0.5 per cent of national income. The Dóchas poll found 88 per cent believe Ireland should be proud of its reputation as a donor, but it also revealed only 49 per cent believe Africa, where most of Ireland’s aid budget is focused, is better off now than two decades ago. In fact, Africa is experiencing average economic growth rates of 7 per cent which are, in turn, helping boost a burgeoning middle class across the continent.

“This research suggests that, despite clear progress in many developing countries, the good news stories from Africa are not reaching the general public,” said Hans Zomer, director of Dóchas.

“It shows that people’s perceptions of what aid can do, and what aid is actually achieving, have not caught up with realities on the ground,” added Jim Clarken, Dóchas chairperson and chief executive of Oxfam Ireland.

Earlier this year, Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello launched the public consultation phase of the review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs overseas development division.

Views are being sought from the public, Oireachtas, NGOs, private sector institutions and Ireland’s partner countries on what shape the State’s overseas development policy should take in the future.