Taoiseach holds aid talks with agencies

Tuesday 04 January 2005 22.44
Bertie Ahern - Talks with Irish aid agencies
Bertie Ahern - Talks with Irish aid agencies

Representatives of 16 Irish aid agencies met the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs today to discuss how best to spend the money donated to help the victims of the disaster.

Following the meeting, the Government announced that a technical team, including an Army logistics expert, will travel to the affected region on Friday to assess needs.

John O’Shea of GOAL, who has called for the deployment of Irish troops in the area, said he was happy that the Government was clearly prepared to send soldiers if necessary.

It was also announced that a garda team is to travel to Phuket in Thailand to assist local authorities and identify Irish citizens missing in the region.

Gardaí have been working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the families of people missing since the disaster and have gathered information which will be made available to local authorities.

Dermot Ahern said there were very serious concerns over three Irish citizens still missing in the region.

There had been concerns over 17 other people described as medium risk, but that number was now down to 13, he said. He also said the hearts of everyone went out to their families.

All the aid agencies said it had been a good meeting and that they had all agreed on the need to co-ordinate aid effectively and to focus on the long term rehabilitation of the area.

Trócaire call on Govt to use its influence

Trócaire has called on the Government to use its influence abroad to ensure that all aid pledged to the tsunami victims in Asia is actually delivered.

The overseas development agency for the Catholic Church in Ireland also used today's aid meeting to call on the Taoiseach to use the Government's recently established diplomatic links with Burma to secure access for humanitarian workers.

The military regime in Burma has refused to allow access and issued disputed figures about the impact of the disaster.

No Triple Lock obstacle

Earlier, the association of military officers, RACO, said that the Government does not have to wait for a UN mandate to send troops to help countries affected by the Indian Ocean disaster.

RACO's Deputy General Secretary Commandant Adrian Ryan says the Government could send troops to take part in humanitarian missions, despite the so-called Triple Lock.

The Triple Lock is a convention under which military missions abroad need a UN mandate, as well as the approval of the Cabinet and the Dáil.

The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, said earlier this week that the Government was prepared to send additional troops abroad to help meet an urgent request from the stricken countries.

Call for three minutes' silence

Earlier today, Mr Ahern called for three minutes' silence at 11am tomorrow morning, when countries across Europe will remember the victims of the disaster.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Seán Brady, yesterday called on Irish people to observe this Friday as a day of solidarity for the victims of the tsunami.

Speaking on behalf of the four Archbishops of Ireland, Dr Brady said this solidarity could take the form of reflection, fasting and generosity.