Cardinal calls for end to cuts in overseas aid spending


FURTHER CUTS to Ireland’s overseas development budget would have a devastating impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, Cardinal Seán Brady has said in a letter to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.

“These vulnerable people have had no part to play in creating the multiple crises now facing them – climate, financial, food – yet the challenges they face are unprecedented. I appeal to you not to turn your back on them,” he said.

“We must ensure that we maintain our current level of aid spending until such a time as we are in a position to build it up again.”

Cardinal Brady’s letter follows a discussion on the issue at a recent meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, at which it was decided the bishops would oppose any further cuts.

Over the last year, the State’s overseas development assistance (ODA) budget has been reduced by €222 million or almost one-quarter. In July, the McCarthy report recommended that the Government postpone until 2015 (from 2012) its commitment to reach the UN target of allocating 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas development.

“We are fearful that if those recommendations are implemented we will see the ODA allocation cut again in the forthcoming budget and also, most likely, in the budget for 2011,” said Cardinal Brady.

“We acknowledge that we are facing significant challenges here at home at present. We know that savings must be made.

“However, we believe that savings made through further cuts to ODA will have a marginal impact on our own problems while having a devastating impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people . . . For this reason, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference is opposed to such cuts and urges the Government to keep the promises made to the world’s poorest people.”

He referred to a recent encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI in which he urged wealthier nations to do all they can to devote a larger portion of national income to overseas development.

Cardinal Brady paid tribute to the State’s long-standing commitment to overseas development.

“Ireland is proud of its record of standing by those in the developing world . . . Ireland’s aid makes a real difference in reducing poverty and inequality in some of the world’s poorest countries.

“Even in these difficult times, the right decision for Ireland is to show solidarity with the poor and strong leadership in honouring our international commitments.”