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'Great to see you in the snow': Bono wrote to Varadkar praising Global Fund contribution from 'our little island'

The Government announced in February it would contribute an additional €15 million to fight AIDS, Malaria and TB.

Image: PA Images

“THANK YOU FOR showing the world what we stand for as well as what we stand against,” wrote Bono to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in February, after the Government increased its contribution to the Global Fund. 

In early February, the Government announced it would contribute an additional €15 million towards the fight to end AIDS, TB and Malaria through the Fund -  an annual contribution increase of 50%. 

The next week, Bono wrote to Varadkar thanking him for this “amazing progress”, emails released under Freedom of Information show. 

Dear Taoiseach, Leo -

Great to see you in the snow, and what a win to hear our little island announce a 50% bump in our GF pledge…Amazing progress, and even more impressive knowing all you have on with Brexit…Thank you for showing the world what we stand for as well as what we stand against. 

We will now work even harder to make others follow your great example. And, as ever, let us know if anything ONE or I can do in lead up to G7, Global Fund, etc.Bono

In late January, the Taoiseach and Bono met at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.

During the summit, Bono told the world’s business elite that capitalism is not immoral, but it is a wild beast that needs to be tamed. 

Said the U2 frontman:“We have to just ask ourselves deeper questions about where we are with the project called capitalism.

And, you know, capitalism is not immoral – it’s amoral. It requires our instruction. Capitalism has taken more people out of poverty than any other ‘ism’, but it is a wild beast and if not tamed it can chew up a lot of people along the way. And in fact those people’s lives that it has chewed up are pushing the politics in our homes towards populism.

Ireland – the seventh largest contributor to the fund – currently contributes €30 million to the Global Fund. This will now rise to €45 million for the period 2020-2022. 

Established in 2002 as a partnership between governments, NGOs and the private sector, Ireland is one of the founding members of the Fund which aims to end AIDS, TB and Malaria as epidemics.

Following the announcement, Jamie Drummond, co-founder of ONE, an advocacy group co-founded by Bono, welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase funding, saying that “as some others step back, Ireland is proudly stepping up in the fight against extreme poverty and diseases”.

Drummond said Ireland’s contribution to the Global Fund would help reverse the spread of HIV in Africa and help save 16 million lives from diseases over the next few years.

“Other nations must now follow Ireland’s great leadership – if all countries demonstrated the same ambition, we could end these diseases once and for all,” said Drummond. 

In March, Drummond wrote to Varadkar saying that by increasing funding, the Taoiseach was now in a “privileged position” to persuade other European leaders to follow suit. 

“We believe that a phone call to Mr [Jean-Claude] Juncker on the EC’s pledge would be very powerful,” wrote Drummond.

He added that ONE needed “leading European voices” like Varadkar, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emannuel Macron to help persuade outgoing European Commission President Juncker to increase the Commission’s funding for the Global Fund. 

About the author:

Cónal Thomas/Christina Finn

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