June 2017        

Letter to the editor

Ireland and Syria

In May, Clare Daly posed a question in the Dáil to the Government. It said as follows: “To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the organisations to which the government provided funding in Syria, with particular reference to the oversight and scrutiny which took place regarding the destination of these funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter.” The reply was as follows:
     “Minister of State, Mr. Joe McHugh T.D.: Since 2012, Ireland has provided more than €76 million in assistance for the humanitarian crisis as a result of the devastating conflict in Syria. At the Supporting Syria and the Region high-level conference in Brussels last month, I pledged that Ireland would provide at least a further €25 million in 2017.
     “Ireland’s funding is channelled through a range of partners who are best placed to respond to people’s urgent needs on the ground, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries hosting large numbers of refugees. These partners include both the UN and International Red Cross and Red Crescent agencies and NGO partners, who provide humanitarian supplies and urgently needed health, education, water and sanitation services, as well as protection for children and vulnerable families.
     “We decide on the allocation of funds on the basis of categorisation of needs and assessment of which partners are best placed with capacity to respond and access to those in need. Any partner Irish Aid works with in a high risk environment such as Syria is subject to careful systems assessment and review. All grants are subject to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform provisions on the Management of and Accountability for Grants from Exchequer Funds. All recipients of public funds are required to demonstrate transparency, accountability, and effective and efficient use of funds.
     “A rigorous monitoring approach is applied with all grants, including reviews of annual performance reports and audited accounts, annual bilateral meetings with partners, and field-level monitoring visits, where possible. In addition, Ireland regularly participates in international donor co-ordination mechanisms that monitor and oversee the work of our UN and Red Cross and Red Crescent partners.”
     The Minister then went on to say: “I recently visited Jordan and Lebanon to see at first hand how Ireland’s assistance is helping refugees affected by the crisis to meet their daily needs. Officials from my Department have also recently travelled to the region to monitor funding provided to NGO and Red Cross and Red Crescent partners.”
     It is unfortunate, and possibly deliberate, that those NGO partners are not named but include GOAL, which works exclusively in Syria. Why can he not name them and where the money actually goes?
     He then says all Ireland’s partners are kosher, open, transparent etc. but does not name any of them. Simple follow-up question: Outside of the UN/RC/RC who are Ireland working with and funding? Will he name them and say where specifically the money goes? Yet it is generally believed who specifically got the money we gave in Damascus, Maloula and Aleppo in May.
     Yet the Irish government refuses to send TDs or senators to government-held Syria; they allow ISIS and MI6 thugs attack the Belgian, Russian and other embassies. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has been clear in this writer’s view that the bulk of Syria’s civilians can go f**k themselves because they do not live in the stone age Idlib Caliphate that Ireland’s fund goes to.
     In April 2017 in the Dáil, Mick Wallace TD posed many questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding Syria. (See Dáil Debates, 13/04/17, Topical Issues, and link to Youtube.)
     The Minister is his usual effusive self, not answering directly the questions asked, and yet this state willingly gives out our money, and without any accountability or scrutiny. It also reveals Flanagan basically saying we are into regime change and we are helping to build up the infrastructure of rebel Syria. But no-one is building up that infrastructure, as their economy is a pirates’ and brigands’ one. (Let’s not even mention the prostitution of Irish neutrality.)
     Is it really acceptable that funding can be allowed to be continued? Is there anywhere in the so-called democratic world that would allow this to continue?
     Where stand the Independents in the Dáil and Sinn Féin with regard to this issue?
Paul Doran

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