Irish cash for abortion aid agencies in Ethiopia

Government agency gave over €8.5m to termination providers

Micheal Martin

Rory Fitzgerald

Millions of euros of Irish taxpayers' money has been used to support agencies which fund abortion in Ethiopia through Irish Aid, the Government's overseas development agency.

When questioned about its policy, Irish Aid said: "We don't provide any funding to those whose focus is to provide abortion services as this would be against government policy."

However, between 2005 and 2012, Irish Aid gave over €8.5m to two of Ethiopia's biggest abortion providers.

The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE), which got €2.7m from Irish Aid between 2008 and 2012, lists the provision of "safe abortion services" as one of its "major focus areas".

The agency, which provided 50,000 abortions in 2011, funds its abortion services from its "unrestricted funding". Irish Aid provided some 10 per cent of its "unrestricted funding" in 2011.

DKT Ethiopia, the biggest supplier of medical abortion kits to the Ethiopian government, received €5.8m. Almost 10 per cent of its total donor support came from Irish Aid in the period 2005 to 2012.

The agency DKT said that Irish Aid introduced a condition that Irish funding should not be used for procuring abortion products in "early 2010". However, Irish Aid gave DKT Ethiopia some €4.8m in the period 2005 to 2009.

The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia confirmed that the Irish Aid funds had been "unrestricted" before 2012. In 2011, the Irish Embassy in Addis Ababa sought confirmation that Irish Aid funds would not be used for "abortion-related activities". FGAE said: "We confirmed same in writing to the embassy before year 2012."

Such restrictions may be "artificial", according to a 2012 report by FGAE's partner organisation, the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Its 2012 report on FGAE states that "resources from [FGAE's] donors are used in a similar way and it is therefore difficult, and somewhat artificial, to isolate the individual impact of one of the donors". This report said that core funders, such as Irish Aid, were "making a significant direct impact [on sexual health service provision] particularly in the areas of access to safe abortion".

In 2002, the US withdrew funding from FGAE, due to President George Bush's policy of not funding NGOs that offer abortion services abroad. However, by 2008, Irish Aid was one of FGAE's core funders. In late 2012, after being questioned about this funding, Irish Aid said it was "consolidating" its programme in Ethiopia and was already ending direct support of Ethiopian "sexual and reproductive health programmes" from 2012.

Irish Aid confirmed "the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for Irish Aid. Decisions related to funding by the department are approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Minister of State with Responsibility for Trade and Development".

Micheal Martin was Foreign Affairs Minister from 2008 to 2011, when much of the Irish Aid funding was paid to the Ethiopian abortion providers. Mr Martin's Fianna Fail reaffirmed its "pro-life" position at its 2013 Ard Fheis.

From 2004 to 2011, Minister of State with responsibility for overseas aid was variously held by Fianna Fail deputies Conor Lenihan, Michael Kitt and Peter Power. Eamon Gilmore became Foreign Affairs Minister in March 2011, after which time funding for the Ethiopian NGOs was reduced, before being axed at the end of 2012.