I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 11 and 37 together.
I welcome this opportunity to brief the Dáil on my two visits to Somalia, the most recent being when I accompanied President Robinson there.
Earlier this year, I had a meeting with the Irish Aid Agencies who are particularly active on the ground in Somalia. They told me that a grave human catastrophe was unfolding. At their request, I visited Somalia last August. Although I had been warned of what to expect, the situation which I witnessed in Somalia was horrifying beyond description. I came away convinced that more must be done. I immediately contacted the Secretary General of the United Nations and my fellow EC Foreign Ministers and urged them to step up their efforts on behalf of Somalia. Subsequently, I made the situation in Somalia the main theme of my address to the UN General Assembly.
I accompanied the President to Somalia and from there to New York where we reported on the situation to the United Nations Secretary General, Dr. Boutros Ghali. We briefed him on what we had seen, on the inadequacy of the supplies getting through to those in need and on the unacceptable security situation. We made clear the necessity for a greater, and better co-ordinated, humanitarian effort. We emphasised that excellent work was being done by nonGovernmental organisations, including many Irish representatives and by organisations such as the Red Cross, Concern, Trócaire, Goal, UNICEF, World Vision and many other organisations who have committed themselves to alleviating the devastation in Somalia.
At the Birmingham Summit, following a proposal which I made to my colleagues, the European Council adopted a strongly worded declaration on Somalia.
Throughout, it has been my concern: to encourage the developed countries to maintain and increase their rate of disbursement of aid; to address the security issue and in particular to press for the quickest deployment of the UN security personnel authorised by the Security Council; and to give all possible support to the efforts under way to achieve a political resolution.
I regret that the security situation has continued to deteriorate. Troops said to be loyal to former President Siad Barre have attacked and seized the town of Bardera, badly disrupting the relief effort there and spreading despair in the surrounding area. Today, the newspapers report direct threats to the safety of aid workers in Somalia.
Progress in the deployment of United Nations troops in Somalia continues to be extremely slow. The first 500 UNOSOM troops have arrived in Mogadishu. I have stressed to the Secretary General of the UN the necessity for the urgent deployment of more troops and will continue to do so. Reports from Mogadishu indicate that the situation at the port and at the airport continues to be extremely bad and supplies are not getting through.
Agreement has yet to be secured from the factions concerned to enable the deployment of the troops at Kismayo and Hargeisa. The UN is in discussion with the Kenyan authorities on the deployment of troops on the Kenyan side of the border near Mandera.
Deputies will be aware that Ambassador Sahnoun, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, has resigned from his position. I hope that his successor, Ambassador Kittani, will pursue the achievement of peace and the delivery of humanitarian assistance with the same determination and courage as Ambassador Sahnoun. I regret the resignation of Ambassador Sahnoun and share his dismay at the inability of the developed world to respond properly to the tragedy of Somalia.
The Government have made available a total of £655,000 from the disaster relief fund to the relief agencies working in Somalia and with Somalia refugees. I have also allocated £125,000 from the bilateral aid fund for an agricultural rehabilitation programme in Baidoa. In addition, of course, Ireland contributes its proportionate share to the cost of EC programmes in Somalia.
As regards the idea of the Government matching contributions raised by the voluntary agencies on a pound for pound basis, I repeat my commitment to achieving the UN target of devoting 0.7 per cent of GNP to ODA as quickly as improving economic and financial circumstances permit.