Taoiseach pays tribute to tsunami response


Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today remembered the victims of the tsunami which devastated Asia one year ago. Between 250,000 and 300,000 people lost their lives in 13 different countries and millions were left homeless.

Mr Ahern said the events of December 26th last year had shocked the world. "In a spectacular reminder of human kind's vulnerability to the constantly evolving nature of this planet, without warning a sequence of massive earthquakes triggered a series of tsunami waves that radiated across the breadth of the Indian Ocean," he said.

Mr Ahern was speaking as survivors joined national leaders and foreign dignitaries for memorials in the worst-affected countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

He said he wanted to honour all the people who died and in particular the four Irish victims: Lucy Colye, Éilís Finnegan, Connor Keightley, and Michael Murphy.

"The scale of the devastation wreaked by the tsunami was such that it seemed almost impossible to begin to think about rebuilding. However, rebuilding is exactly what is happening. Across the region people are rebuilding their lives and their livelihoods."

There were more than 392,000 houses reduced to rubble by the tsunami and 308,000 are needed to house the survivors. So far, 46,000 have been built. More than 1.5 million people lost their livelihoods.

Mr Ahern said the global response to the disaster had been unprecedented, with more than €10 billion raised for the relief effort.  "Ireland contributed more than €100 million euro in financial support to the relief and recovery effort; this is made up of €20 million allocated by the Government and a further €80 million in private voluntary contributions. This places Ireland as one of the most generous nations in the world - a fact of which we should be most proud."

Mr Ahern paid tribute to the work of Irish aid agencies such as Concern, Goal, Trocaire and the Irish Red Cross but added that the path to recovery would be a long one. A year after the tsunami, an estimated 1.5 million people are still living in tents, temporary shelters or in the homes of family and friends across the region.

"Those most affected were, by and large, the poorest and most vulnerable. However, I am confident that the tsunami survivors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Burma and elsewhere will achieve their goal to build back and to `build back better'.

"We will assist in this. While 26 December 2004 served as a reminder of human kind's vulnerability, today, 26 December 2005, serves as an equally strong reminder of human kind's resilience," said Mr Ahern.