Moving Irish Aid 'wrong decision'
THE HEAD of Ireland’s overseas aid programme at the time of its decentralisation to Limerick has now described the move as “a wrong decision”.
Ronan Murphy, who acted as director general of Irish Aid for eight years, was speaking this week at the launch of his book Inside Irish Aid: The Impulse to Help.
The relocation of the overseas aid branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs from Dublin was part of former minister for finance Charlie McCreevy’s 2003 decentralisation plan.
“I have to say I was part of it in the sense of having to implement it,” said Mr Murphy. “But to take a programme which had its contacts and centres in Dublin – now we were treated very well down in Limerick when we went down to do the move – but I would have to say I think it should not have been done.”
Mr Murphy said the organisation was promised at the time that Limerick was a popular destination but, he added: “I think it just wasn’t properly thought through.”
The move was heavily criticised at the time amid concerns that the relocation would affect the quality of Ireland’s overseas aid programme.
Two years ago, Dóchas, the umbrella group for overseas aid agencies, called for a review of the decision after former Fianna Fáil minister for overseas aid Tom Kitt labelled it a “crude and botched initiative”.
Mr Murphy’s book explores the journey Ireland’s aid programme has taken since its £1 million budget in the 1970s to its expanded budget of €920 million in 2008, when Ireland was the sixth-largest donor per head in the world.
Despite the recession, Mr Murphy said it was important Irish Aid did not slip down the agenda.
Former president Mary Robinson and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore were guests of honour at the launch.
“While Ireland’s economic reputation may have been tarnished in recent years, the fundamental values of our society represented by our aid programme have not been questioned and are contributing to our efforts to rebuild our reputation overseas,” Mr Gilmore said.