Concern USA and Goal USA, the Irish international aid agencies with offices in New York, have expressed their concern over the news that the Irish government will substantially reduce its allocation for overseas aid in the latest budget.

The latest Irish government cuts, announced recently by the Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, mean that certain overseas projects will either now be forced to close or be scaled down dramatically.

Responding to the announcement, Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide told IrishCentral: “This latest cut in overseas aid is the fourth in just over 10 months, as €95 million was cut in February 2009, €15 million in October 2008 and €45 million in July 2008. The cumulative figure represents total cuts in overseas aid of €255 million in less than a year.”

The Irish government’s recent budget cut, together with a previous cut in February, represents a total 22 percent cut of the 2009 overseas development aid budget as published by the government in October 2008.

Said Arnold, “To cut overseas aid on this scale is hugely disproportionate. We realize that the Irish government now finds itself with tough choices to make at home. However, this latest cut means that certain overseas projects, many of which are quite literally a matter of life or death, will forced to close altogether or scaled down significantly.”

Arnold said that the Irish government’s decision would have very serious humanitarian ramifications in the developing world for the foreseeable future. The cuts comes at a time when the developed world needs to keep its aid promises to the poorest developing countries, he said.

In 2005, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, speaking at the United Nations, recommitted Ireland to that target by 2012. The latest cuts cut mean there is now a very real risk of Ireland not reaching this target.

Said Arnold, “It is part of our DNA as Irish people that we have a real sense of moral, practical and political support for people in the poorest and most vulnerable of circumstances. Humanitarian aid is one of the things that Ireland does well and for which we have received international plaudits. This latest cut seriously undermines our international reputation for our sense of fairness, justice and solidarity.”

Arnold added that Ireland had gained huge respect internationally when it announced its commitment to devote 0.7 percent of gross national product to international aid by 2007, and later by a revised date of 2012. That pledge would appear to have been swallowed up in the latest budget cuts.