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Coveney responds to Tommy Tiernan's criticisms of Irish Govt's overseas development shortfalls

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney says next week’s budget will see a significant increase in the overseas aid budget.

Comedian Tommy Tiernan said the Irish Government must deliver on its promises after a visit to Somalia with Trocaire.
Comedian Tommy Tiernan said the Irish Government must deliver on its promises after a visit to Somalia with Trocaire.
Image: Miriam Donohoe/Trocaire

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

COMEDIAN TOMMY TIERNAN has rightly been highlighting the issue of global hunger, according to Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who said next week’s budget will see a significant increase in overseas development aid.

The Irish comedian last week launched an urgent hunger appeal with Trocaire to save the lives of millions of people at risk of Famine in the Horn of Africa after travelling to Somalia. 

Speaking on his podcast, ‘The Tommy, Hector and Laurita Podcast’, Tiernan said the public should be “frustrated, annoyed and disappointed” in the Irish Government for not hitting a UN target of allocating 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to overseas development aid.

Tiernan said on his podcast that in the Programme for Government, “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael said we will deliver on 0.7% and they haven’t”, adding they are only giving 0.37%. 

“This doesn’t have to be this way,” said Tiernan, who called on people to make their voices heard ahead of next week’s Budget. 

Tommy 3 Comedian Tommy Tiernan in Somalia. Source: Miriam Donohoe/Trocaire

People are rightly speaking out about the cost-of-living crisis, said Tiernan, but he said people living in the Horn of Africa have “an edge of death crisis”.

When Tiernan’s comments were put to Coveney by The Journal in New York, where Coveney is attending a number of key UN events, he said:

“In terms of international hunger, malnutrition, the kind of things that Tommy Tiernan and others have rightly been talking about, just to say this week alone, Ireland will be announcing significant increases in funding to two very important initiatives,” he said. 

“I hear the point in relation to 0.7%. All I can say is that since I took over the privilege of being Minister of Foreign Affairs, we have seen hundreds of millions of Euros extra spent on overseas aid. By the middle of next week, when the budget is announced, we’ll see another big increase next week.

“Ireland will have effectively moved from spending about €700 million euros to spending about €1.2 billion euros a year on overseas development aid,” he added.

Targets

The Programme for Government does commit to making annual, sustainable progress, and “ultimately achieving the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2030.

“We will set a monetary expenditure floor on the basis of 2019, to be calculated over a rolling current three-year average,” the document reads. 

“The commitment of 0.7% is still there,” Coveney said today, adding: 

It’s a commitment to get to that by 2030. And we’ll try and make the contribution towards moving in that direction next week, but I can assure you, the increased contribution in real terms to overseas development aid next week will not be insignificant. In fact, it’s a very large sum.

Speaking about the two funding initiatives Ireland is involved in at the UN this week, Coveney said Ireland will increase its funding by 30% to the Global Fund, which is about responding to AIDS, Malaria and TB.

“That’s €65 million over the next three years,” said Coveney. 

Ireland will also be announcing its participation in a new fund, which has been set up by UNICEF, to protect children that are being impacted by famine and malnutrition, said the minister. 

“We will be committing €50 million of new money over the next three years to that UNICEF fund for the malnutrition of children, which is about getting important food directly to children who need it, who otherwise may starve,” said Coveney, stating that Ireland has been working with Samantha Power, the administer of USAID, on the plan. 

“Just to give you a sense of it, the USAID are putting a big chunk of money into this, but they’ve asked for international contributions of €250 million, Ireland is contributing €50 million. So just to give you a sense of just how big a part we’re playing in those international efforts, about 20% of the fund is coming from Ireland.”

Despite all the challenges that Ireland has faced the last number of years, from Brexit to Covid, to the cost-of-living crisis, the Irish Government is still increasing its overseas development budgets by very significant sums, said the minister.  

Donations to the urgent appeal Tiernan launched last week can be made through www.IrishEmergencyAlliance.org

Christina will be reporting from the UN throughout the week. You can follow her updates on Twitter @christinafinn8

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