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Difficulties and decisions

Decision time is at hand: the government will present its budget for 2010 on 9 December, less than two weeks away. They have an unenviable task.

The immense hardship inflicted on thousands of families by the floods in the south, west and midlands of Ireland give rise to additional legitimate demands on the public purse. And this is taking place against the need to find savings in public spending of some €4 billion.

Taking its share

Faced with this scenario, some will argue that “aid should take its share” of public expenditure cuts. We continue to argue against this with all the moral force we can assert.

Four cuts

Last year saw four cuts in the aid programme, amounting to €255 million, the highest percentage cut of any broad area of government expenditure. The cuts will impact on the daily lives of the poorest people in the world. We will be breaking our promise made at the UN on two occasions to devote 0.7% of our national income to aid by 2012. These are the key arguments we believe remain valid.

Damaged reputation

Ireland’s international reputation has been damaged over the past 18 months. Our reputation for financial regulation and economic policy making has fallen. The two reports on clerical sex abuse have been deeply damaging to our reputation as a caring society.

A glimmer of light

Our aid programme is an area in which we retain a deserved international reputation. A decision not to impose any further cuts, against the background of the difficult decisions the government faces, would send a positive signal to the world that we still remain committed to helping the poorest and most vulnerable.

That would be a light of brightness and hope at the end of what has been a very difficult year.