Launch of Review of Irish Aid Programme – Brendan Smith TD


Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Report Launch: ‘Review of Irish Aid Programme’

Introductory Remarks by Chair


    • Good Morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome you all and thank you for coming to the launch of this important report.
    • I am particularly pleased that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciarán Cannon, TD, has been able to join us here today. I will call on him to make some brief remarks shortly.
    • I also wish to acknowledge the presence of the many stakeholders who made important contributions to this report.
    • Before proceeding I wish to notify Members that privilege does not extend to the AV Room.
    • At the outset I wish to refer to the overwhelmingly positive assessment of the Irish Aid programme which was made by the vast majority of stakeholders consulted as part of this review. The high quality of the programme and its strong focus on poverty reduction was emphasised time and again. Ireland has a good story to tell.
    • Indeed I had the opportunity to witness this at first hand, when I and two other Committee members visited Malawi and northern Mozambique last November. The visit highlighted the life-changing impact Irish taxpayers’ money is having on some of the poorest people in the world. It demonstrated to me that results are being achieved through the implementation of a broad range of programmes, working hand in hand in a spirit of partnership with local communities and authorities.
    • Deputy O’Sullivan will refer to our visit in further detail.
    • But the visit also highlighted to me the extent of need that continues to exist and the obligation we all have, at national, European and international level to respond to that need.
    • The challenge for the Government now is to identify how to protect and build upon the high quality of the aid programme, at a time when global challenges are intensifying in areas such as climate change, in rising inequalities and population growth, in growing migration flows throughout the world, in politically isolationist trends in the west, and not least in humanitarian crises.
    • I would like to take this opportunity to state on behalf of the Committee our utmost outrage at the latest news from Syria. To echo the blank statement issued by UNICEF on Tuesday, there are just no words.
    • So there can be no doubt as to the scale of need that exists. The Government’s response, through the Irish Aid programme, and indeed through our broader foreign policy, must address that need as comprehensively as possible, taking into account current challenges and the changed global context.
    • The Irish people are known for their empathy and generosity. The aid programme in Ireland has consistently been supported by citizens. I was heartened by the results of a poll last year which showed that 80% of those surveyed believe we should increase our support to efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • Yet in our detailed discussions with stakeholders and in the many written submissions we received as part of this review, it became clear that much more remains to be done.


    • We must match our REPUTATION with RESOURCES; we must match our AMBITION with ACTION.
    • This report contains a number of recommendations to address those issues. I will refer to a few of these:
    • To begin with the Irish Aid programme must be clearly framed in the context of the ground breaking Sustainable Development Goals.
    • We are proud that those Goals were brokered by Ireland but now we must focus on implementation and ensure that Ireland continues to be at the forefront at both national and international levels. This must be a whole of Government endeavour.
    • Ireland’s policies across a wide range of sectors can potentially have an effect on developing countries and can consequently make our aid less impactful. This is an issue in the area of trade, environment and climate, agriculture, education, immigration and tax policy among others.
    • The OECD noted in 2014 that Ireland needed to address such issues and develop a more coherent approach to development across Government.
    • Regrettably that has not happened and the Committee calls on the Government to develop a clear cross- Government plan of action on international development policy as well as to establish a cross-Departmental body to ensure better coordination and coherence. This could be a sub-group of the existing cross- departmental coordination mechanisms on the SDGs.
    • We had much discussion at our meetings on the importance of bilateral and multilateral channels of aid delivery.
    • It is clear that greater oversight is required of aid channelled through multilateral bodies (such as the UN and the EU). The Committee calls on the Government to enhance oversight and accountability mechanisms in that regard. This applies to humanitarian aid also, where the value for money in channelling aid to pooled funds with other donors rather than funding NGOs directly, must be assessed.
    • The Committee supports the continued focus of the Irish Aid programme on reducing poverty and vulnerability and its strong focus on working with fragile states and Least Developed Countries. However the Committee was disappointed to learn Ireland is no longer meeting the UN target of spending 0.15% of ODA on the Least Developed Countries and call on the Government to make a commitment not to fall below the UN target in the future.
    • There is also an opportunity now for Ireland to step up in ensuring a strong voice at the table on international development issues with the UK set to leave the EU.
    • On reaching our now very long standing commitment of achieving ODA expenditure of 0.7% of GNI – the Committee is unanimously of the view that if Ireland is to maintain its positive reputation in international development, we must reach that target.
    • The Committee calls for a multiannual plan to increase the aid budget on an incremental, phased basis and proposes that the Government submits such a clear, multiannual plan to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight for consideration.
    • Finally, a strong case for the importance of strengthening our aid programme also needs to be made to the Irish public.
    • This report contains important recommendations on scaling up resources and commitments to working with the education and youth sectors. It is so important that the taxpayers of the future have awareness, understanding and ownership of the Irish Aid programme.
    • The Government must also communicate better the results of the Irish Aid programme to all citizens.
  • I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that taxpayers are aware of how their money is being spent and moreover, why it is being spent in the way that it is being spent. This is not just the Government’s aid programme; it belongs to the Irish people and their understanding of it is vital.


  • I welcome the announcement, made after our own review process was underway, that the Government intends to publish a White Paper on Ireland’s international development policy in the coming months. We, as a Committee, request the Minister to ensure that the evidence-based findings and recommendations contained in this report will be carefully considered as part of that process.
  • We need to do more. But not just do more. We need to do more, better.
  • This report, its positive overview and its clear recommendations, is indicative of broader cross-party support and consensus about the importance of and support for Official Development Assistance.
  • Parliamentary scrutiny is not just about finding problems, it is also about recognising good work and making recommendations to ensure that good work continues and improves. I believe we can be proud of the good work that the Irish Aid programme represents and with the implementation of the recommendations made in the Committee’s report further improvements can be made. Because we must not forget, this work is done on behalf of the Irish people who we all represent and, the Irish people must have ownership over it.
  • I believe this is a subject of such national importance, at such a critical time as the Government embarks on preparation of a new White Paper on Ireland’s international development policy, that there should be full Dáil and Seanad debates on the subject. I commend this report to Dáil and Seanad Éireann and I look forward to further discussions on it with all stakeholders.
  • I would now like to invite Minister Cannon to make some remarks.(When Minister has concluded)
  • Vice Chair of the Committee, Maureen O’Sullivan, will make some further comments before we open to the floor to questions.