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Irish Department of Foreign Affairs praised for aid role

Concern Worldwide has acknowledged the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs in developing an internationally recognised high quality aid programme.

To mark the organisation’s 40th anniversary, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, hosted a reception in Iveagh House yesterday. Former Irish Foreign Ministers, Development Ministers and European Commissioners were invited. The reception was addressed by Minister Ahern; Michael Kitt, Minister of State for Overseas Development and Mr Tom Arnold, Chief Executive of Concern.

Mr Arnold said that he wanted to pay tribute to successive Ministers and to the civil servants in the Department of Foreign Affairs for their contribution in bringing the aid programme to the point that it is internationally recognised as being of high quality and effective in reducing global poverty. This has culminated in recent years in the government’s decision to achieve the 0.7% aid target by 2012. That decision is a source of national pride and one supported by all political parties.

“The partnership between the Department, Concern and other Irish NGOs is an important part of the aid programme. It is a key factor in building the support from the Irish public for the aid programme. On our 40th anniversary, I think it is important to acknowledge and say thank you for the co-operative and sustained support from the Department over the years,” said Mr Arnold.

Mr Arnold said he was pleased that a number of former European Commissioners were in attendance. Since Dr Fitzgerald, in his capacity as President of the EEC Council of Ministers, signed the first Lome Convention between the EEC and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in 1975, Ireland has played a disproportionate role in shaping European development and humanitarian policy. Irish agencies such as Concern and Trócaire have played important leadership roles at European level in engaging with the European Commission and Parliament to protect principled development policy.

“In a world where the poorest countries and the poorest people in these countries risk becoming increasingly vulnerable as a result of high food prices, economic instability and climate change, Europe has a key role in the future. We look forward to the European institutions and European NGOs continuing to work together to ensure that Europe acts as a responsible global citizen,” said Mr Arnold.