Sunday, February 08, 2009

 

Proposed cuts to Irish Aid are disproportional

The announcement that Overseas Aid will be hit in the the most recent cutbacks announced on Tuesday has generated a lot of concern in the Irish Aid community. As Hans Zomer of Dochas pointed out, the cuts to the aid program represent 5% of the total cutbacks announced, yet the percentage of government expenditure on aid is significantly less than that. The disproportionality is something I would like to see addressed, a point I made in my speech on Human Rights on Wednesday night.

The Human Rights debate was tabled by Senators David Norris, Joe O'Toole and Ivana Bacik. The debate covered issues such as the attacks of the Equality Authority, Prison Rights, and the international situation in Gaza, Tibet, Burma and Sri Lanka.

I returned to the issue on Thursday morning during the Order of Business. I was disappointed to hear Senator Dan Boyle, who I agree with on most things, refer to the cuts as "unfortunate". It's not the word that the Irish Aid Community is using to describe the cutbacks. I asked Senators Boyle, O' Murchu and Ormonde, who are all fine contributors on Irish Aid matters, to use their influence with Ministers to get the proposed cuts reduced.

I also raised a matter in relation to the Irish Film Board. The authority of the current Board ran out in mid-January and the members have not been reappointed. As a result no funding decisions can be made. The Irish Film industry is now getting worried about what is going on. I asked for the Minister to clarify the situation. At this stage he hasn't done so, but at least the issue is now out there in the open - my concerns were reported in Screen Daily, the international film community's online newsline.

Later I travelled over to Trim to meet our candidates there for the Town Council elections in June. Both James O'Shea and Donal O'Brien have excellent chances of winning two of the nine seats on the Council. We talked about the issues facing Trim - unemployment rates have risen significantly in the last year. They will both be fighting to encourage more jobs into the area.

On Friday and Saturday I called to people in a few places around the county. On both days I met people who had recently been affected by unemployment. Many people are not aware of what they are entitled to or where to go, so I hope to get back to them with some information on their rights and on organisations (such as MABS) who can help them through their current crisis.

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