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Revelation that Aid Minister ignored UN requests for food aid disturbing

4 August, 2005

Sinn Fein Councillor Killian Forde has described as "disturbing" the revelation that Overseas Aid Minister Conor Lenihan ignored at least four separate requests by the UN's food aid section for funding of famine relief in Niger over the past 10 months. He said if Minister Lenihan wasn't capable of managing his overseas aid brief he should be dismissed.

Councillor Forde said, "Two of these requests were made when Ireland was an Executive Board member of the UN World Food Programme, a position they were elected onto and entrusted by other UN members to prevent food shortages becoming famines. This they failed utterly to do."

Councillor Forde, a former overseas aid worker, said "The Ethiopian famine of the mid 80's caught the world by surprise, since then millions has rightfully been spent developing sophisticated tracking mechanisms to forewarn on impending food crisis's. The news that four specific requests for assistance by the UN's World Food Programme were ignored by Minister Lenihan is disturbing and makes a mockery of the hard work and money that has been incurred developing 'Early Warning Systems' to prevent occurrences of starving kids as we have seen from Niger.

"The fact that Ireland had a seat on the Board and therefore a unique viewpoint on the long lead in time of this famine only compounds this scandal." Killian also pointed out that, "under the Conor Lenihans tenure Irelands donation for famine prevention to the UN has slipped and in 2004 Ireland lagged far behind smaller European countries with even the impoverished African State of Malawi contributing more."

Councillor Forde added that, "Ireland has a long and proud tradition of delivering great aid programmes, being generous and swift in our response. This Government has a clear choice - it can either allow that proud tradition to be sullied by its current policies under Minister Lenihan or the Taoiseach should dismiss Minister Lenihan if he has been acting alone in his mismanagement of his overseas aid brief." ENDS

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