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Aid alone is not answer to Africa

Sir -- I'm writing in response to the article by Eilis O'Hanlon in last week's Sunday Independent.

The Irish public is generously supporting Oxfam's appeal for East Africa at the moment. All money raised is ring-fenced for our response to this crisis as it has always been for any such emergency.

Ms O'Hanlon questioned the amount of money Oxfam Ireland spends on its overseas programmes. However, she was very selective in the use of figures from our annual audited accounts, all of which are available to the public on our website.

Oxfam Ireland had €8.7m available last year to spend on charitable activities. Of this, €7.2m was spent directly on our overseas programmes, including advocacy and campaigning, which is an integral part of our work to overcome poverty. The remainder was spent on our Fair Trade programme and on communications activities.

The cost of running our extensive network of 50 retail shops, and our fundraising activities, which raised €5m for our work last year, account for the balance of our expenditure.

I agree with Ms O'Hanlon that aid alone is not the answer. Throughout East Africa, we are currently supporting 1.2 million people, and aim to reach three million in the coming months.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland, Dublin 2

Eilis is 'shooting dead crows'

Sir -- There is no doubt that aid is not the answer to all of Africa's problems, I don't think anyone, least of all the agencies such as Concern, Trocaire and Oxfam ever claimed that it was.

Indeed, if it were so, Africa's problems would have been solved long ago. The problems in Africa stem mainly from poor governance. Droughts occur, but famines tend only to occur where there is ineffective, corrupt, or in Somalia's case, no government at all.

Ms O'Hanlon is busy shooting dead crows. Nobody who is involved in development favours indiscriminate aid to dodgy governments.

All of the major Irish agencies are promoting trade links between African and European countries.

The 'Fair Trade' brand has been understood and widely accepted by the Irish public.

In my own country, Sierra Leone, which was destroyed by 20 years of misrule followed by 10 years of civil war, Trocaire are assisting a local university in setting up courses for newly-elected public representatives and newly-appointed civil servants.

The Chinese model, which Ms O'Hanlon favours is regarded with alarm in many countries. It consists of extracting resources and then flooding the market with cheap goods.

So what was the point of the article, aside from giving Ms O'Hanlon the opportunity to make a few snide remarks about Mary Robinson?

Joe Manning, Sierra Leone Hon Consul General to Ireland,

Bagenalstown,

Co Carlow

We need closure on Omagh

Sir -- Our nation's spirit and identity is personified in the opening of a book of condolences for the people of Norway. The perpetrator of these crimes is in custody and will be prosecuted. An element of justice and closure will be achieved for the victims and their families. Sadly, the largest single terrorist atrocity on the island of Ireland, which occurred in Omagh in 1998, continues to go unpunished and unresolved.

These crimes cannot be directly compared from a technical and legal perspective, but they can in moral terms.

Has the need to punish our own domestic extremists been dropped by Irish and British politicians, and their respective legal services?

James Moloney,

Oxford, England

Pope was de facto 'Irish king'

Sir -- A republic is an open society based on an ideology of liberty, not race or religion.

John A Costello declared the Republic of Ireland in 1949, yet many times he stated he would obey the bishops in matters of faith and morals. In 1948 he sent a telegram to the Pope de facto declaring the Pope 'king' of Ireland. This telegram desires "to repose at the feet of your Holiness the assurance of our filial loyalty and of our devotion to your August Person..." A democratic leader obeys the will of the people, not a potentate.

Stephen Fallon,

16 Barrington Street, Limerick

Good enough for Islam...

Sir -- Looking at the photo of Mary Robinson visiting a health centre in Somalia in last week's Sunday Independent, I was very impressed by the appropriate and sensitive way she was dressed. She wore loose clothing covering her whole body and also a chiffon scarf on her head. Obviously, she feels that mode of dress is important and that it is also a nice gesture and a mark respect to the people of the Islamic faith that she was visiting.

Isn't it a pity then when, as President of Ireland and representing us the people, that she could not show the same sensitivity and respect by her dress code, when she visited the head of the religion professed by the vast majority of the people she then represented?

Catherine Kelly,

Douglas, Cork

Homeless are suffering too

Sir -- In an article in last Sunday's paper (July 24) Paddy O'Gorman claimed the recession is not making the overall situation worse for people who are homeless.

As Focus Ireland explains in our annual report, we have supported a steady rising demand for our services.

Last year we worked with 6,500 people -- an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.

Luckily, not all these people are homeless -- as a key element of our work involves preventing people from losing their homes.

Joyce Loughnan,

CEO, Focus Ireland

Election should be open to all

Sir -- I wish to fully endorse the sentiments of the article in the Sunday Independent of July 10 by Eamon Delaney entitled 'Frontrunner still left behind in perverse system'.

This country is a democracy and any citizen of Ireland of the required age should be free to stand for the position of Uachtaran na h-Eireann without going cap-in-hand to Co Council members, most of whom are devoid of intellect.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, should put an immediate end to this archaic nonsense.

Micheal O Nuallain,

Monkstown, Co Dublin

Country towns are not manky

Sir -- In response to Noelle McCarthy's article 'Manky, minging and crawling -- it's time to clean up our act' (Sunday Independent, July 24), I believe Ms McCarthy is referring to our capital and has never ventured beyond the Pale.

I have lived in Cavan town all of my life and we take pride in the cleanliness of our streets.

Having won most litter-free town in Ireland on numerous occasions, my home town is far from a 'pigsty'. Ms McCarthy should look outside Dublin and see what this country is really like -- and the values of the people of this country.

Sinead Smith,

Cavan Town

UNICEF wrong on Melanie

Sir -- I refer to Liam Collins's article headed 'Gerry Ryan's devastated Melanie now gets the sack' in the Sunday Independent on July 24, 2011.

I have no doubt that the love and high esteem copious people held, and still hold, the late Gerry Ryan, regardless of any human foibles he may have had (which we are all pre-disposed too), actually had a very positive effect on the work his partner Melanie Verwoerd so successfully carried out in her role as Chief Executive of UNICEF Ireland.

It really beggars belief how the board of UNICEF came to a decision that the publicity Ms Verwoerd realised as a result of her connection with Gerry Ryan had a negative affect on the charity. I, for one, supported the charity after Gerry died as a result of Melanie Verwoerd's close connection with him -- but never again -- and I believe I won't be the only one to take this view. UNICEF have shot themselves in the foot.

Derry-Ann Morgan, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, Co Meath

Sunday Independent