By Evan Short
For the first time ever the glitz and glamour of the Cannes Film Festival will resonate to the sounds of the Irish language, this after a musical written solely in the Irish native tongue was shortlisted for an award.
“Bonsoir Luna” is a short film about a romance between street artist, Duke, and Luna who works in a coffee shop close to where Duke performs.
The dialogue is not only solely in Irish, but all lines are sung by the actors, making it an even more unusual production and part of the reason it caught the eye, and ear, of the Cannes organizers.
Donncha Gilmore wrote and directed the 15 minute film, which was produced by David Cullinan, PJ Moloney, and Philip Hickey for Aminal Productions with the support of Ireland’s Arts Council.
Donncha said he wanted to celebrate the Irish language in a positive way.
“I wanted to make an Irish film that was gleefully and unapologetically optimistic. I also felt that it would be a great opportunity to present the Irish language in a new light, by using the musical genre to showcase its lyricism.”
Federico Rea acted as cinematographer, Glenn Whelan as art director, while Gilmore also edited the picture.
Michael-David McKernan and Hilary Bowen Walsh star as Duke and Luna, respectively. The cast also features Susie Young, Grainne Boyle, Aislinn Ní Uallacháin, Gemma Doherty, Eoghan Regan, and Garret Farrell.
The film’s music was written and arranged by Josh Reichental, with additional contributions by Stephen O’Brien. Recording of the music was carried out at Lamplight Studios, with Stephen Dunne as recording supervisor.
Among Gilmore’s inspirations for the film are the musical films of French director Jaques Demy, which include “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964).
Luna was shot in September 2014 around Dublin and it is hoped the inclusion in the Short Film Corner in Cannes will mark the beginning of an international festival run.
The film has already received development commitments from the Arts Council for a feature adaptation by Aminal Productions, which is still in the early stages.
By Áine Ní Shionnaigh
Chatting to Emmet Cahill earlier this week is like catching up with a long lost friend. He has a hint of an accent which I strongly suspect is from the Midlands. As Emmet describes it himself, ‘I’m from the middle of the country”, which technically has two meanings: he lives in a rural area which happens to be located in the Midlands of Ireland outside Mullingar, County Westmeath. I ponder on what it is about the Midlands that has an affinity for producing world-renowned tenors: Count John McCormack, Frank Patterson and now my interviewee, Emmet Cahill. Perhaps it’s the peat? Just as peat is a natural resource generously given to us by nature in this part of Ireland, nature has also given an amazing gift to Emmet which he has cherished and nurtured with the help and support of his amazing parents. Emmet continually refers to his parents during our chat and attributes his success to them. All I can think is that they have done a beyond amazing job, raising someone who has nurtured and developed his talent and who also manages to be the nicest, most down to earth person one could chat to.
Emmet Cahill is currently one of Ireland’s most recognized tenors who sweeps listeners away with the emotion of his singing. He is natural and relaxed, two words that consistently come up during our conversation. He is very unassuming, his life on stage is simply a progression of what he has always done growing up: singing and playing music. Emmet displays that typical Irish trait: on the surface, an extremely laid back attitude which totally belies the tremendous talent and courage he has. Emmet is well known for his renditions of John McCormack, another name that comes often during our chat. In 2010 when Emmet was attending the Royal Irish Academy of Music studying opera and theater, he was awarded the ‘John McCormack Bursary’ for the most promising young tenor. He was also named the most promising young singer at the Academy. He has been a multiple prize winner at the National Feis Ceoil singing competition. In 2013, the Irish American Music Association awarded him with the title “Tenor of the Year’ in recognition of his work on stage here in the United States.
That is where our paths first crossed. The first time I heard Emmet perform was in the Beacon Theatre on Broadway in 2011 where he was lead singer with the renowned Irish Music Show; ‘Celtic Thunder’. The opulent Beacon Theatre was very fitting for Emmet’s first US appearance on stage as he seemed to be following in the footsteps of the most renowned tenor in the history of our time, Count John McCormack who himself had performed on Broadway almost a century earlier and who also hailed from County Westmeath. On first hearing the pureness of his mellow tones, I was struck by his depth of feeling. I sat entranced as he sang the beautiful haunting melody; “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears”. Observing the emotion etched deeply into his handsome face, I was never so proud to be Irish, Emmet is as his performances: eloquent, charming with an underlying depth and a maturity that totally belies his young age. I had an image of him growing up, with perhaps a grandfather who enjoyed playing dusty 65”s of John McCormack on a wind-up gramophone. I was pretty close, he was raised listening to some of his Dad’s John McCormack vinyl’s on an old record player. Perhaps the mellow tones of McCormack somehow diffused into his young soul and created this depth of expression and feeling that now speaks to souls all around the world.
During our chat I am amazed at what Emmet has achieved in the past 4 years, from being chosen at the age of 20 to join world renowned ‘Celtic Thunder’ where he became an immediate hit with the fans. Becoming the lead singer on this show put him in the spotlight and almost immediately he found himself touring many continents and countries including America, Canada and Australia. Now four years later he is just about to launch his first American tour of his solo career.
When did Emmet first start singing and playing music? For Emmet there was no start date, it was simply a natural progression from growing up in a home surrounded by music and singing. His Dad is a music teacher and his Mom is a singer. Therefore music and singing is as intrinsic to the family home as the concrete walls that sustain it. From the age of four, Emmet began to play the piano, guitar and violin and sing. He and his siblings were all classically trained and often accompanied their Mom to local weddings where she was the professional singer. His siblings all play and sing also. Perhaps that’s why Emmet keeps coming back to the fact that he wants his new solo show to be natural, he wants people when they come to his show to feel like they are dropping over to his home for an impromptu sing song and music session. He wants it to be more about an experience rather than listening and watching a performance.
The success and recognition that Emmet has enjoyed as lead singer of Celtic Thunder over the past four years would be enough to absorb for most, but Emmet knew deep down he had to keep going, to be truly authentic to his own original talents he had to do it solo and that is what he is preparing to do right now. In less than two weeks, he will hit the shores of the US and is doing a whirlwind solo show that will take him cross country from St Louis, Missouri, across the plains to Indiana, Ohio back to what he charmingly refers to ‘as a little circle around New York’ which will take in cities from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Cleveland to Chicago and many many more. The full itinerary is outlined at the end of the article with website details.
I finish with one of my favorite topics, the issue of being Irish in America, Again Emmet has an interesting insight: “In Ireland you are just yourself, you don’t think about it. Americans are more invested in the idea of being Irish and all that that entails”, he says. This is fascinating as Emmet already has a huge fan base here in the US who have no Irish connections but when they hear him sing, it resonates with something deep within. If being Irish is connected with listening to this amazing tenor Emmet Cahill, I strongly recommend everyone should become Irish at least for one night. Book your tickets for a memorable night, enjoy the show and I will keep you updated on the album which will be out later in the year! For New York fans, see you all in Rory Dolans on June 6th.
Tour Dates: http://www.emmetcahill.com/tour-dates/
By Ray O’Hanlon
More than 180 years after she died beside a Pennsylvania railroad, Catherine Burns is going home.
Fragments of her remains unearthed at the Duffy’s Cut excavation site in Malvern, Chester County, PA will be interred in her native County Tyrone in July.
“We got a confirmation that we will be able to bury bones of one of the Duffy’s Cut victims, 29-year-old Tyrone native Catherine Burns,” Dr. William Watson of Immaculata University, a leader of the excavation work at the Duffy’s Cut site since 2003, said.
A funeral Mass is being planned at Clonoe Parish in Coalisland for Sunday, July 19.
“We have a small marker we will place at her grave,” said Watson.
Added Watson regarding Catherine Burns: Excavating her remains back in August, 2010, two things were apparent to me immediately. Her face was largely intact, so we finally had a face from Duffy’s Cut, and her pelvis was also substantially intact.
“We had excavated skulls before, of course, but the violence done to the men had essentially blasted their faces away. I recall lifting the pelvis out of the ground and remarking how heavy it was, and asking whether that might be important.
“Our physical anthropologist, Janet Monge, examined the remains at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and said two things pointed to the remains being female – the small size of the mouth palate and the pelvis.
“Janet concluded that the remains were from a female approximately thirty years old, and we had one female aged 29 on the John Stamp ship passenger list, Catherine Burns (there was also a 21 year old female on the ship, but Janet said the remains were about 30 and not about 20). Janet said she was also a victim of blunt force trauma, but her face had survived.
“We found the two bone fragments in her coffin nail box in November 2014, and we formulated the idea then of returning some of her remains to her native county.”
Watson added that a marker would also be placed on the grave of the other identified Duffy’s Cut victim, John Ruddy, now resting in Ardara, County Donegal.
From being buried without ceremony at Duffy’s Cut the immigrants of that bygone time are gradually being reinterred with dignity and respect.
In March, 2012, the remains of five men and one woman were laid to rest in a church burial at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, not far from Malvern. That ceremony was attended by the then Irish ambassador to the U.S., Michael Collins.
Meanwhile, Dr. Watson and his team are preparing to extract core samples for an estimated fifty men buried in a mass grave at the site. This work is expected to begin in early June.
The mass grave site is on land immediately adjacent to the railroad which carries SEPTA and AMTRAK trains. AMTRAK owns the land and has granted permission for the work.
The site is marked by the remains of a onetime stone building.
In the summer of 1832, 57 Irish laborers died while building the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad between Malvern and Frazer at a site that became known to the wider world as Duffy’s Cut.
Dr. Watson and his colleagues believe that the deaths were caused not just by cholera, the reason reported at the time, but by murderous attacks carried out by local nativist gangs.
Remains unearthed during the years of the Duffy’s Cut excavation have confirmed this view.
Concern’s Emergency Response Team leader Ros O’Sullivan (l) and logistician Graham Woodcock (r) in Kathmandu planning the distribution of essential shelter and hygiene packages to 10,000 families in some of Nepal’s hardest-hit districts. This photo was taken between the two devastating earthquakes. Concern Worldwide photo.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Irish aid workers rushed to Nepal after last month’s devastating earthquake.
They are in Nepal amid the chaos following today’s devastating temblor.
“I could see dust rising from the houses as they were collapsing,” said Limerick’s Kieran McConville, who works out of Concern Worldwide’s office in New York as part of the agency’s Concern Emergency Response Team.
“This one was big,” said Concern Emergency Team Leader, Ros O’Sullivan, who is from Donegal.
Concern Worldwide’s Emergency Response Team, already in Nepal and responding to the earthquake of 25th April, are all accounted for after they were left shaken by a new earthquake registering 7.3 on the Richter scale that struck Nepal at approximately 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday, May 12.
Kieran McConville, who is in a remote area of the countryside, said: “We were standing on the side of a hill in Bhirkot when the earthquake happened.
“In the valley below I could see dust rising from the houses as they were collapsing. The earthquake two weeks ago damaged those houses and this one destroyed them. The villagers are now sitting in an open space in a field very afraid and night fall is approaching. There have been five big new earthquakes and several aftershocks in the last few hours. Right now, we’re surrounded by landslides limiting our ability to move around.”
Irish Aid Agency GOAL is also working in Nepal since the April 25th quake.
The agency’s emergency response team is currently working to establish the damage, injuries and potential casualties caused by today’s second earthquake.
GOAL’s Country Director in Nepal, Dr. Raj Singh, described the scene on the ground in Kathmandu as “chaotic.”
“People are not permitted to enter buildings at the moment and we have had three aftershocks since the quake, one of which was very pronounced.
Thankfully, all my colleagues in GOAL escaped injury and are safe, and at this point we are working as best we can to establish the level of damage, injuries and potential loss of life here in the capital and elsewhere.
“We were working inside when the earthquake struck. Tables and chairs started to shake violently, doors were opening and closing and people started to panic. We got out as soon as we could and we saw buildings swaying as the shaking continued. The earthquake lasted approximately thirty seconds. It was chaotic; people here are extremely scared
“From where I am standing, I can see cracks in several buildings and there is a real fear of buildings collapsing.
Dr. Singh said that apart from now assisting people who have been affected by today’s quake, the challenge for aid groups to support those who were affected by the first earthquake has now become even more daunting and challenging.
“We’ve been delivering aid to extremely vulnerable families in four of the most-affected districts around Kathmandu,” he said.
“The latest quake will undoubtedly complicate and frustrate this work.”
GOAL Regional Director, Darren Hanniffy, has already set out to return to Kathmandu – he was there for several days just after the first quake – and should be in the city by late Tuesday afternoon, according to a GOAL release.
By Irish Echo Staff
Rockland County, NY, legislators Patrick Moroney and Christopher Carey have presented the Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association with a Distinguished Service Award in recognition of the GAA’s efforts over the past 43 years to promote and bring recognition to Gaelic football and related Irish sports, as well as to nurture appreciation for Irish culture, heritage and traditions in the county.
Rockland GAA chairman, Vincent Tyer, vice chairman Marty McKenna and club coaching officer Joe McGirl accepted the award on behalf of the GAA.
The club was established in 1972 by Irish immigrants who settled in Rockland County and were determined that traditional Irish sports should be passed on to their children.
Today, the ever-growing membership consists of over 600 local youth from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
In 2000, the club, said a release, was able to purchase the land that it leased in Blauvelt for over thirty years from the Rockland Psychiatric Center and is presently commencing work on expansion plans that include the construction of a clubhouse that will provide changing rooms, a conference room and an open style pavilion for club gatherings.
The club sponsors youth teams for boys and girls ages 6 and under through 18 years of age, and men’s and women’s teams that compete in Gaelic football, hurling and camogie.
“The GAA has accomplished so much over the past four decades and is recognized by other clubs in the nation and in Ireland as the leading promoter of traditional Irish sports in America,” said Legislator Patrick Moroney.
“Many young families were introduced to our county through the GAA and settled here as a result. The GAA promotes Irish sports, Irish culture and Rockland County, as well,” Moroney said.
Legislator Carey added: “This program draws in youth and adults from all over the County and introduces them to the challenge of a different sport and allows those of Irish descent the opportunity to participate in a sport that is reflective and reminiscent of their ancestry, culture and tradition. The GAA has made enormous contributions to Rockland County and we are pleased to recognize that fact.”
Sinn Féin candidate in South Belfast and Irish Echo publisher, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, significantly raised his party’s vote in the South Belfast Westminster constituency, but sitting MP and SDLP leader, Dr. Alasdair McDonnell, held on to his seat.
Photo By: Donal McCann
By Anthony Neeson
Sinn Féin have lost the iconic Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat to the Ulster Unionists after Thursday’s Westminster election.
The seat, which was won by hunger-striker Bobby Sands in 1981, saw outgoing MP Michelle Gildernew up against a single unionist candidate, Tom Elliott.
The nationalist vote was split, however, with the SDLP also having a candidate in the field.
Five years ago, Gildernew won the seat by four votes over another unionist unity candidate.
This time out the Sinn Féin woman lost by 500 votes. Elliott received 23,608 to Gildernew’s 23,078.
The SDLP’s John Coyle took 2,732 votes.
After being declared MP, Elliott said: “This is not a green constituency. It doesn’t belong to Bobby Sands.
“It belongs to the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and that is who I intend to represent.”
Elsewhere the Democratic Unionist Party won eight seats, losing South Antrim to the Ulster Unionists, but retaking East Belfast from Alliance’s Naomi Long.
In North Belfast the unionist pact saw the DUP’s Nigel Dodds’ vote rise to keep out Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, while in South Belfast, Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP held on to be returned as MP even though his vote was slashed by Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
McDonnell was 900 votes ahead of the DUP’s Jonathan Bell.
After the votes were counted for all eighteen Northern Ireland Westminster seats the DUP returned with eight MPs, Sinn Féin four, SDLP three, UUP two, while there is one independent, Lady Sylvia Hermon.
In Britain, David Cameron’s Conservatives won a slim majority in parliament, while Labour were all but wiped out in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalist Party.
DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “I trust that our two parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, can work in the interests of the union at Westminster, because the union is going to be under pressure from Scottish nationalists.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “Across constituencies Sinn Féin consolidated and built support. In many constituencies we faced a unionist pact held together by opposition to change, opposition to equality and in support of a union that is imposing austerity.
“This was most evident in Fermanagh/South Tyrone where all shades of unionism combined with the Tory party to unseat a republican woman.
“Given the small margin of difference Sinn Féin asked for a recount but this was refused.
“The people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone will come together to regain this seat from the right-wing unionist alliance. It will return a MP who will represent all in the constituency and demonstrate in word and deed a commitment to equality, respect and tolerance.”
Irish diaspora minister, Jimmy Deenihan, will step off with walkers this weekend in New York’s first ever “Darkness into Light” 5k Walk in the Bronx.
“Darkness into Light walks take place in more than eighty locations across Ireland and internationally and I’m thrilled to take place in this, the first New York walk.
“Thanks to funding under the Emigrant Support Programme from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pieta House is working with the GAA and a number of other local community organizations to provide counselling and suicide prevention services to the Irish community in New York,” Deenihan said.
The walk aims to raise awareness of suicide, self-harm, and other mental health issues.
Gaelic Park will be the starting point and finish for the walk which will it pass through nearby Van Cortlandt Park. Walkers will start assembling at 4 a.m. with a starting time for the walk of 5.15 a.m. on Saturday, May 9.
For more information about Darkness Into Light New York contact Kieran O’Brien firstname.lastname@example.org, Caroline O’Connell at (212) 470-8470. Or the Darkness Into Light New York Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Minister Deenihan will also be attending a number of other events in the tristate area which was preceded by a visit to Newfoundland in Canada.
In New York, Deenihan will also be guest of honor at the New York launch of Drew University’s Transatlantic Connections 2 conference. The conference will take place in Bundoran, Co. Donegal in January, 2016.
The minister will then travel to Hamden, Connecticut, to visit Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum and Institute at Quinnipiac University.
The University is currently exhibiting “Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger,” which explores the little-known story of the Grey Nuns of Montreal, who provided care and shelter to tens of thousands of Irish immigrants during the Great Famine.
Minister Deenihan will also travel to Parsippany, New Jersey for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s annual North American Convention and Fleadh.
The convention brings together the best of Irish traditional music, dance and arts in North America.
The minister will have the opportunity to view “The Sligo Masters,” the story of three of the greatest fiddle players ever to grace the traditional Irish Music stage: Michael Coleman, Paddy Killoran and James Morrison.
“Irish music, and culture more generally, is one of the most effective ways of connecting our diaspora, strengthening their links to home and maintaining expressions of Irish identity through generations,” said Deenihan.
“I am delighted to support Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann through the Emigrant Support Programme. Their work will ensure that Irish music will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.”
The minister will also attend a business brunch hosted by Irish Network New Jersey. IN-NJ connects Irish, Irish Americans and friends of Ireland across New Jersey through business, arts, sport, and social activities.
Rivals agree: Sinn Féin candidate Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (left) is joined by outgoing SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell and Workers’ Party South Belfast candidate Lily Kerr outside the City Hospital in Belfast lobbying to protect the National Health Service from the proposed international Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement.
By Anthony Neeson
Northern Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote in the Westminster election.
Eighteen seats are up for grabs and while many are viewed as a foregone conclusion three of the four Belfast seats could see a change of MP.
In West Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey is expected to top the poll; however, North Belfast will be a two way tussle between outgoing MP, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly.
Although the SDLP are also standing in this seat, Kelly is trying to convince nationalists that they now have a majority in this constituency which was once a bastion of unionism, and to come out and make history on May 7.
In East Belfast the DUP are favorites to wrestle the seat back from Alliance’s Naomi Long, who famously defeated First Minister Peter Robinson five years ago.
That said, Long has proved to be a formidable politician and she is fighting for every vote in a constituency that was the center of the loyalist flag protest.
Another intriguing battle is in the south of the city. SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, who has been MP for the constituency for ten years, has been criticized in many quarters for running a lack luster campaign. He is defending a 6,000 majority but this time Sinn Féin are in the field with South Belfast MLA (and Irish Echo publisher) Máirtin Ó Muilleoir, while the DUP are also talking up their chances of splitting the nationalist vote and winning the seat.
However, Dr. McDonnell is confident of being returned as MP.
“My record of delivery for South Belfast over the last ten years as an MP and over the least thirty years as an elected representative and community activist stands for itself,” he told the Irish Echo.
“We have delivered economic growth and job creation in places like the Gasworks. We have welcomed a new migrant community that has enriched our constituency. I want to build on that success and I sense that the people here back my plans to do that. With their support and the support of my fantastic canvassing teams, we will retain this seat and use that mandate to lock the Tories out of government.”
Sinn Féin’s Ó Muilleoir, whose odds have plummeted dramatically from 33/1 on the day the campaign began to just 4/1 this week, said he is receiving strong support during canvassing.
“I am buoyed by the positive reaction on the doorsteps as I pledge to deliver the platform of progress which I popularized as Lord Mayor of Belfast: building the peace, fostering reconciliation, celebrating diversity and focusing on jobs and investment.”
“I topped the poll last year in Balmoral (ward), my colleague Deirdre Hargey topped the poll in Botanic, and I am very confident that I will top the nationalist poll this time and take the seat with the support of progressives right across the constituency,” he said in reference to last year’s Belfast City Council election.
Candidates are also standing for the Legislative Assembly at Stormont.
By Jim Smith
BOSTON — The Irish nanny who is accused of murdering a young girl in her care in 2013 may be released on bail today after being in prison while awaiting trial for more than two years.
Aisling Brady McCarthy’s trial has been delayed once again based after Middlesex Superior Court Judge Maureen Hogan’s decision last week to order the medical examiner to “re-review” all of the medical evidence in the case, some of which may shed new light on possible causes of the child’s fatal injuries.
If McCarthy – a native of County Cavan – is released on bail for the duration of the upcoming trial, she will likely be ordered to wear a GPS bracelet.
She has been held on $500,000 bail since she was first incarcerated at Framingham State Prison in January 2013, this following the death of one-year-old Rehma Sabir.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston discovered retinal hemorrhaging and concluded at the time that the child’s injuries stemmed from “abusive head trauma,” but McCarthy’s lawyers claim that she had no role in the infant’s death and that other medical factors may have played a role.
Investigators had found blood-stained items at the apartment, including baby wipes, a blanket and a pillow. The stains were evidently from internal injuries and not from lacerations.
Defense lawyers have argued in pre-trial conferences that doctors had given insufficient weight to other possible causes of death, such as old injuries the child may have received while out of the country in the care of her family.
The 36-year-old nanny was living illegally in the U.S. at the time of the child’s death, having overstayed a 90-day visitor visa which had been issued in 2002.
After doctors at Children’s Hospital determined that the baby had suffered “abusive head trauma,” Dr. Alice Newton, medical director of the Child Protection Team, said in court documents that these could be caused by “violent shaking” or by “impact to the head, either by directly striking the head or causing the head to strike another object or surface.”
One piece of evidence discovered at the apartment was a missing piece of wall plaster next to the baby’s changing table, which was consistent with forceful impact against the wall by the corner of the table.
During the arraignment in early February 2013, McCarthy’s lawyer, Melinda Thompson, said that her client “has no idea what happened to this child.”
By Ray O’Hanlon
Ireland’s relationships with the countries of the world is manifested at many levels.
But what has become especially prominent in recent years is a twin-pronged approach that can be summed up thus: “trade and aid.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs is, of late, also the Department of Trade.
“Aid,” too, could be easily tagged on to the department’s current title.
Ireland is not a superpower, not a big and powerful country.
But it is rich and prosperous compared to many of the world’s nations and sees this position of privilege as a primary spur for giving aid and comfort to less well-off countries, or countries that suffer sudden calamitous disasters.
So it was of little surprise that the Irish government announced in recent days that it would continue to spend “at least” fifty percent of Irish overseas aid in the world’s poorest countries.
Ireland, said the Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion, and North South Co-Operation, Seán Sherlock, is among the most effective countries in the world at targeting aid at those who need it most, “a policy we are committed to pursuing in the coming years.”
Minister Sherlock made his remarks to coincide with Global Citizen Earth Day, organized in Washington, D.C. by the ONE Foundation. Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Nations, David Donoghue, made the announcement in Washington on behalf of Ireland.
“I am proud to commit that Ireland, through Irish Aid, will continue to spend at least fifty percent of our aid budget in the least developed countries and to do as much as we can on aid. We will work with our partners in Europe and beyond to convince them to do so too,” Minister Sherlock said.
Given the state of affairs in a number of countries and regions of late, there is no doubt that every cent that Ireland has set aside for overseas aid will be spent.
In recent months, Irish relief aid has been allocated to parts of the world as far apart as West Africa (to combat the Ebola crisis) Syria, where the civil war continues to rage, even as the country suffers the appalling depredations brought upon it by ISIS, Libya, and now Nepal, devastated in a recent days by a major earthquake.
Ireland has dispatched thousands of blankets, tents, tarpaulins, jerry cans and other urgent supplies to assist families affected by the recent earthquake in Nepal, this according to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade release.
Over 63 tons of Irish humanitarian supplies will be distributed by Irish Aid’s NGO partner, Plan Ireland, in the Kathmandu-Makwanpur area, focusing on those most severely affected, and those living in temporary settlements or in the open air since their homes were destroyed, said the release.
The first of three airlifts, worth over €500,000 in total, was dispatched from the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, where Ireland pre-positions supplies for use in global emergencies.
Irish Aid – the government aid arm and the Irish equivalent of U.S. Aid – also has pre-positioned emergency humanitarian supplies in Accra in Ghana, Brindisi in Italy, Panama City in Panama, and Subang in Malaysia. The supplies are held within airport complexes.
The Irish government also has a Rapid Response Corps, a roster of highly-skilled and experienced volunteers who make themselves available to deploy, at short notice, to work with Ireland’s UN partners in disaster stricken parts of the world.
The Corps currently comprises over 90 individuals with specialized skills in logistics, engineering, water and sanitation, humanitarian coordination and protection.
Those skills are currently being put to the test in Nepal.
“The government of Nepal has requested international assistance and Ireland is responding to the best of our ability. These emergency airlifts will focus on the most vulnerable,” said Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan.
“My department is monitoring the situation closely and, as needs assessments come in and a fuller picture of humanitarian needs emerges, we will consider what further assistance we can provide, including further stocks airlifts. We are also liaising with our UN partners to deploy highly skilled members of Ireland’s Rapid Response Corps,” Flanagan said.
“We need to ensure that the right aid is delivered to the region to assist in the efforts in a meaningful way. These supplies are designed to have immediate impact and we are monitoring this situation closely,” added Minister Sherlock.
Two days after the earthquake, Minister Sherlock announced initial funding of one million euro to provide life-saving assistance to displaced Nepalese families.