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Minister must apologise for outrageous accusations against Aid agencies

19 November, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the new Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid Conor Lenihan TD to publicly apologise for his "discourteous, combative and offensive" remarks made on RTE this morning. When tackled on why the Government was reneging on its pledge made to the UN in 2000 and in the Programme for Government to increase its Overseas Aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2007, Mr. Lenihan tried to divert attention by suggesting impropriety in the manner in which the aid agencies allocated their money.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Since assuming office, the new Minister of State has completely discredited himself. His highly discourteous, combative and deeply offensive remarks this morning about how aid agencies allocate their funds represent a new low even for this Government.

"This was an outrageous and slanderous attempt to take the focus off the Government's failure to live up to the solemn pledge it made to the worlds poorest people in 2000, again in 2002, and as recently has 19 October of this year. Minister Lenihan should be ashamed of himself. He should immediately retract and publicly apologise for his remarks, which could have a seriously negative impact on the work of these agencies and their ability to raise funds from the public.

"But he shouldn't stop there. He has a moral responsibility to make good on his assertions made to the Dáil on 19 October where he reassured us that the 0.7% target for Overseas Development Aid was a cabinet decision that would be met by 2007. If he cannot do this he should resign for having misled the House.

"There are still a couple of weeks to go before the Budget to have yesterday's Estimates figures changed. It's not too late. In the strongest possible terms, I urge the Government to end the shameful 5-year ODA freeze in the midst of plenty, and to bring forward legislation to ringfence the necessary multi-annual increases to 2007. Such a move would be welcomed generously by all shades of political opinion on this island." ENDS

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