Budget 2016: Overseas aid granted extra €40 million

Flanagan says additional funding shows State’s commitment to fighting global crises

The Government is to spend an extra €40 million on overseas aid next year, according to today’s budget, bringing the total spend for development assistance in 2016 to €640 million.

Irish Aid, an arm of the Department of Foreign Affairs, will receive €10 million from this allocation, while the remaining €30 million will be distributed to other departments with links to international humanitarian agencies.

An additional €25 million will be spent on the Irish Refugee Protection Programme - the scheme that was put in place to resettle and integrate in the State displaced people who have arrived in Europe this year.

Unlike a number of other states, the Republic is not taking money from its aid budget to cover the cost of the refugee scheme.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the extra €40 million was the first significant increase in seven years and reflected the Government's commitment to fighting global poverty and hunger.

"In 2016, Ireland will continue to take a strong lead internationally at the United Nations, " he said.

Minister of State for Development Seán Sherlock, who has responsibility for Irish Aid, said he was proud that the Government had stabilised aid funding over the past four years and that it would increase it next year.

"We will now do more. In 2016, we will increase our direct funding for the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

“Ireland will play a leading role in a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis which is causing the refugee crisis.

“We will address immediate needs and root causes,” he said.

Development target

Aid organisations welcomed the decision to allocate more money to the overseas aid budget, but said the Government should set out a roadmap for reaching its target of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on development.

Dóchas, an umbrella group for aid organisations, estimated the increase would bring total aid spending next year to 0.36 per cent of GDP, up from 0.35 per cent this year.

However, it said that the State was not making any “meaningful headway” towards reaching the 0.7 per cent target.

"Without year-on-year plans and commitments, the 0.7 per cent target remains as elusive as it was 14-years ago," Dóchas director Hans Zomer said.

Concern said the increase was an “encouraging step in the right direction”.

Trócaire said it put Ireland on the “right path” towards meeting international commitments after years of decline, but the State remained far off the 0.7 per cent GDP target.

The organisation suggested that annual targets were required to reach that goal.

“We must remember that we are not talking about mere percentage points, but real people’s lives,” Trócaire executive director Éamonn Meehan said.

Separately, the Department of Foreign Affairs has been given an extra €4 million to improve the passport service.

Mr Flanagan said his budget allocation would strengthen the department’s consular crisis response capacity and ensure it could maintain its support for Irish communities abroad.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is an Assistant Editor of The Irish Times