Sunday 17 December 2017

Aid is not only answer to Third World problems

People are being asked to dig deep once more but the appeal masks a more complex issue, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

If the aim was to generate maximum publicity, then it was job done. Mary Robinson is an internationally recognised figurehead, so taking her along to the Horn of Africa in her capacity as president of Oxfam to raise awareness of the continent's first famine of the 21st Century -- and in a headscarf too, like some latterday Our Lady of the Sorrows -- was a stroke of genius. When Mary talks, the world listens. When Mary weeps, they sit up even more.

People will answer her call. Money will flow in. Lives will undoubtedly be saved. It seems heartless to quibble. That's certainly what the three aid agencies who flew her out there (Oxfam Ireland, Trocaire and Concern) must have been hoping. She was their symbolic headscarf too, hiding them from prying eyes and searching questions.

And yet, and yet ... The Irish people will dig deep once more, as they did with unprecedented generosity after the Boxing Day tsunami and the Haiti earthquake -- that's one trait of which we can be rightly proud -- but accusing anyone who questions the actions of Irish aid agencies of being hard-hearted is just a sneaky way of shutting down a debate which you fear might, if left to run its natural course, not go entirely your way.

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