Situation in Iraq: Presentation.

I welcome Mr. David Donoghue and Ms Áine Hearns from the development co-operation division of the Department of Foreign Affairs; Mr. William Carlos, Department of Foreign Affairs and Ms Maura Quinn and MsJulianne Savage from UNICEF. I welcome the delegations to the committee. The committee is particularly grateful to Ms Quinn for appearing before it, as I understand she has just returned from the United States this morning. The delegations have been invited here to update the committee on the current situation in Iraq.

I had hoped that the Department of Foreign Affairs could update us on the political situation in Iraq, including the current administrative arrangements and the absence of weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, both the political director and the Middle East director from the Department have been unable to attend the committee today due to prior commitments. Therefore, the Department's presentation will address only the humanitarian situation.

On a point of order and to be helpful, I have only become aware of that now. I requested this meeting on foot of a letter I sent to you, Chairman, which listed those very points. While I appreciate that people cannot be in attendance, I intend to raise these issues in some detail. No discourtesy is intended to the representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs but it would be quite improper of me, having waited so long for this meeting with so many questions to be asked, to say simply that I cannot raise them now and can only deal with humanitarian issues. That is not the purpose of the meeting which was requested, among other things, on the basis of a letter that listed precisely those items. The meeting could have been held last week.

I understand the Department——

Excuse me, Chairman, but while I did not write a letter, I anticipated that this meeting would be a political one in which we would be able to discuss other matters. Of course, we are very interested in humanitarian aid - who would not be? However, the whole issue has dramatically accelerated politically and, therefore, we should be enabled to have a political discussion. That does not take in any way from the excellence of the representatives appearing before the committee.

I understand that the Department may respond subsequently to the questions in writing but we should proceed and see where we can get to.

Before commencing, I remind the meeting that while members of the committee are covered by privilege, others appearing before the committee are not. I now invite Mr. Donoghue to begin his presentation.

Mr. David Donoghue

I very much welcome this opportunity to provide a briefing on the current humanitarian situation in Iraq, as we are aware of it through reports we have received from various sources. In Iraq today millions of people continue to suffer from the effects of conflict, food insecurity, water shortages and deprivation of other kinds. With the disruption and destruction caused by the war, the country's infrastructure has been further degraded. Basic services such as sanitation and electricity remain in short supply, causing hardship and increasing the potential risk of outbreaks of disease.

The security situation in Baghdad and across the country continues to be of grave concern, with attacks targeting coalition forces occurring on a daily basis. In addition, the sharp reduction in the availability of electricity and water in most of Baghdad is exacerbating the frustration of the city's inhabitants.

UN agencies and NGOs are experiencing attacks on their facilities and vehicles. The humanitarian community is concerned, given the potential for civil unrest, should the current situation be prolonged. Such insecurity continues to have a negative impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground.

Prior to the conflict, 60% of the population - in other words, about 16 million people - depended on food rations as their only food supply. Resumption of regular food aid distribution following the war was essential in order to avoid enormous suffering and consequential population movements. On 1 June, the UN World Food Programme, WFP, commenced the countrywide distribution of food aid. WFP offices in the various governates report that food distribution through the public distribution system, PDS, is progressing well. The PDS is the national food distribution system which operated before the conflict and which continues to be used by the WFP. The WFP has delivered a total of 760,000 tonnes of food to Iraq since June. The operation, which is unprecedented in 40 years of WFP activities, aims to feed the entire Iraqi population until the end of October. The WFP has re-negotiated food contracts under the oil-for-food programme and has used commodities from those contracts, valued at almost $1 billion, to bring food into Iraq. The WFP's role is to assist the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. The WFP intends to use the period up to 31 October to ensure that the Ministry of Trade has the capacity to resume the operation of the public distribution system.

The Ministry of Trade and the Coalition Provisional Authority, CPA, in Iraq will need to decide on the best way for people to secure their basic food needs. It remains to be seen whether economic recovery by the end of the year will allow the majority of the population to purchase food on the market. The timeline for dismantling the public distribution system should be approached with caution and be based on a detailed knowledge of the income and economic situation of Iraqi families.

Ireland remains a strong supporter of the WFP and its work, both in Iraq and elsewhere. We assist the WFP through core funding and by responding to specific appeals. This mix of funding mechanisms provides the organisation with the flexibility to deliver food aid rapidly and effectively. Mr. James Morris, executive director of the WFP, will visit Ireland in July. This will provide a valuable opportunity for discussions on the organisation's work in Iraq and elsewhere.

As members of the committee will be aware, since 1991, the people of Iraq have experienced a dramatic drop in all aspects of their living standards. This is due to the fact that the war in Iraq followed on from two previous conflicts and from 12 years of crippling sanctions. In the index which measures quality of life - the human development index - Iraq fell from 96th place to 127th in little over ten years. No other country has fallen so far, so rapidly. This deterioration has been translated at the basic human level into increased child mortality, malnutrition and high rates of disease.

The key focus for the Government from the outset has been on the protection and saving of human lives. This is the humanitarian imperative to which the Government is wholly committed. The assistance delivered to Iraq to date has been informed entirely by this.

On 25 March, the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development and human rights, Deputy Tom Kitt, announced a €5 million humanitarian assistance funding package to alleviate suffering in Iraq. As a result of reports emanating from humanitarian agencies on the ground, the key focus of this assistance is emergency support for health services, water and sanitation, food assistance and support for internally displaced persons or IDPs. This funding has been delivered via our partners, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, Concern, GOAL and Trócaire. Funding has also been provided to assist with the co-ordination of the humanitarian effort. Our partners have a proven track record of providing effective emergency relief to those most in need in difficult operating environments.

Members of the committee will be familiar with the extremely valuable work which UNICEF is undertaking in Iraq. UNICEF is a key partner for Development Co-operation Ireland and while it received €1 million for its emergency appeal for Iraq, it has received overall funding of €13 million, to date, from our programme. We firmly believe that the assistance allocated via our partners is reaching the most vulnerable people and in an effective manner.

The Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, has paid tribute in the Dáil and the Seanad, both to UNICEF and the Red Cross family who, as far as was humanly possible, remained active on the ground during the conflict. The heroic work of the mainly Iraqi personnel of these organisations undoubtedly saved many lives, as they selflessly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable.

A key component of Ireland's humanitarian funding to the Iraqi people was an early response to the initial UN flash appeal for Iraq. This UN assistance was provided in strict adherence to the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality, which underpin the mandates of the UN and its emergency humanitarian agencies. The European Union, including the Commission, has allocated more than €700 million in emergency humanitarian aid for the crisis in Iraq and has delivered, so far, more than €297 million of that total.

On 23 June, the United Nations Deputy Secretary General presented a revised humanitarian appeal for Iraq. This appeal was followed by a preparatory reconstruction conference on 24 June, hosted by the UN in New York, in co-operation with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the CPA. This meeting updated donors on the CPA's current plans and reconstruction challenges. It provided information on Iraq's reconstruction needs and identified the sectors and the methodology for needs assessment, which will take place during the period leading up to the proposed reconstruction conference next October.

The Government's view in relation to reconstruction in Iraq is concerned with key points, namely, how it will be organised, under whose aegis will it be implemented and who will fund it, bearing in mind that the conflict was initiated without a second UN resolution and that Iraq is potentially a very wealthy country. The principal focus for the Government continues to be the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. These needs remain enormous and the UN system and its specialised agencies are best placed to deliver aid with the help of NGOs and other international organisations. The Government is committed to playing its part in helping these agencies to carry out their work.

While it is clear that the situation confronting Iraq is daunting, the challenges facing us are not unique. As donors, we have garnered valuable experience and lessons from similar post-conflict situations. Our aim must be to avoid mistakes made in the past and to incorporate lessons learned in a practical way in all our recovery and reconstruction activities. The importance of co-ordination in all phases of the recovery effort in the months and years ahead cannot be over-emphasised.

While recent experience of post-conflict situations has been mixed, our understanding of the elements required for post-conflict development is improving. East Timor could be mentioned as a recent example of a country which has made admirable progress in a short space of time. Iraq has access to vast wealth in the form of oil reserves to fund reconstruction.

Financial resources alone are not sufficient. The way they are translated into action and programmes will be the key to the outcome of recovery efforts. Successful reconstruction will necessitate building the capacity of local institutions and systems and facilitating good governance and assistance in the key areas of basic needs and livelihood support. The process must be managed carefully to balance the understandable desire to achieve early results with the capacity of any new administration system to act in a productive and accountable manner.

It is, of course, vital that the UN should play a central role in any recovery process. The Government believes, as do our partners in the European Union, that the UN should be at the heart of the reconstruction process. It has the experience, capacity and the perceived impartiality to carry this objective forward. The UN's recent achievements in post-conflict situations provides a good indication of its capacity to deliver what is required today in Iraq. In this respect, the appointment of Mr. Sergio Viero de Mello as the new special representative for Iraq, and the experience he can bring, will be a valuable asset to the recovery and reconstruction process.

Moving beyond purely humanitarian intervention, the UN can assume a significant role in the broader task of helping Iraqis to forge new democratic institutions. It is also essential that the Iraqi people play an important and expanding role in the work being undertaken to reconstruct the country, including its institutions and infrastructure. It is encouraging to see that this is being increasingly recognised and that efforts are being made on the ground to encourage the restoration of public services. The successful recommencement of the public distribution food system is also a reflection of the move to get the Iraqi people back into implementing their own structure.

The scale of the needs on the humanitarian front in Iraq is still enormous. Helping the people of Iraq to survive from one day to the next must be no less of an imperative for the international community than the task of rebuilding the country and laying down the foundations for lasting peace and stability. I conclude by reiterating a commitment made by the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, to both Houses of the Oireachtas on a number of occasions. The Government will do everything in its power to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people and to support the international effort needed to assist recovery in Iraq.

I now invite Ms Maura Quinn to speak on behalf of UNICEF.

Ms Maura Quinn

Thank you, Chairman. In the past three months, cities and towns throughout Iraq have all suffered a similar fate. They have become desperate, lawless and asset-stripped places. As always in conflict situations, the children suffer the most. As the security situation in Baghdad and across the country continues to deteriorate, looting has now finally destroyed what three wars and 12 years of sanctions have not been able to annihilate in Iraq.

I spoke earlier today with a colleague of mine who is head of our nutrition service in Iraq. This was his verbal account of what everyday life is now like in Baghdad:

People are suffering from so many problems here: insecurity, non-availability of electrical power, poor safe water supply, lack of basic services like garbage collection, lack of salaries, high unemployment, increased crime, uncontrolled traffic jams, lack of essential medicines and medical supplies - there is looting and sabotage everywhere.

While the war in Iraq was short, its consequences have dramatically affected the lives of children and their families. Government buildings, water plants, schools and health facilities were damaged and the collapse of the Iraqi Administration has hampered vital social services. The continuing looting and insecurity further exacerbated this.

As a result of the conflict and the deterioration of social services from over a decade of sanctions, Iraq's children today suffer from a severe lack of clean water, inadequate health care and education and the dangers of unexploded ordnances and landmines, as well as exposure and exploitation. It is also important to add that today, hundreds of Iraqi children are now living and working in the streets, a relatively new phenomenon in the country that has been exacerbated since the end of the war.

Following the almost three months of lawlessness and looting, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is now in a worse situation than ever. The security situation in Baghdad and across the country is deteriorating as attacks targeting coalition forces are occurring on a daily basis. In addition, the sharp reductions in the availability of electricity and water in most of Baghdad is worsening the frustration of the city's inhabitants. United Nations agencies and NGOs are experiencing attacks on their facilities and vehicles almost on a daily basis. The humanitarian community is concerned, given the potential for civil unrest, should the current situation continue.

The key obstacles for UNICEF and other key humanitarian aid agencies remain unchanged and include various issues, such as the security of staff and facilities; the lack of operational mechanisms and replacement of looted items; the lack of norms with regard to management and financing of facilities and operations; shortages of fuel; and no telecommunication and co-ordination within Baghdad and with peripheral areas. In addition, it should be noted that UNICEF staff have yet to be allowed to access some sewage pumping stations as they are under restricted military control.

Despite the daily challenges, UNICEF successfully supported two significant events in recent weeks. School children were able to take their final examinations and Iraqi's routine immunisation campaign was restarted. UNICEF activities for the next six months will focus on increasing the availability of safe water, protecting children against vaccine preventable and water borne diseases and reducing malnutrition. UNICEF will focus on ensuring children's rights to education and protecting them from the dangers of unexploded ordnances and all forms of abuse. These activities will be undertaken through local authorities, administrative networks and the Coalition Provisional Authority, CPA.

The continuation of insecurity throughout the country may impede the implementation of planned humanitarian activities. However, all efforts will be made to ensure that the situation of Iraqi children improves in the shortest possible time. UNICEF and other UN agencies have almost daily meetings with CPA sectoral advisers. Co-ordination is the essence of the relationship with CPA since both parties are working on achieving the same objective of re-establishing Iraqi ministries.

The water and sanitation system throughout Iraq has collapsed leading to a sharp increase in diarrhoeal and water-borne diseases, especially among children. Before the war, the average child under the age of five years had up to 14 episodes of diarrhoea each year. Reports indicate that diarrhoea incidents have doubled in the past month by comparison with the previous year. UNICEF distributed two million sachets of oral rehydration salts in the last two weeks alone to address the outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases among children in Iraq.

Electricity and water supplies in Baghdad have fallen by 40% in the past week due to sabotage and looting. UNICEF is working with the CPA to restore power. One of the main problems has been looters knocking down electric pylons between northern Iraq and Baghdad to steal cables which can be melted down and sold. Baghdad, which needs 1,700 MW of electricity every day, is currently receiving approximately 750 MW - less than half of its daily requirements.

Sanitation facilities are in a similarly precarious state around the country. Sewage treatment facilities are not operating due to the breakdown of the fuel supply line, the lack of maintenance and looting. As a result, it is estimated that the amount of raw sewage being discharged daily into the Tigris River may have doubled from the pre-war estimates of 500,000 tonnes to one million tonnes. The national authorities that oversee the sector were also in a state of crisis as a result of looting. Insecurity is delaying rehabilitation and repairs because staff are staying away from work.

Given the power cuts currently affecting most of Baghdad and the related reduction in water availability, UNICEF has increased its activities to ensure minimum water and sanitation services in the city as well as in most vulnerable governorates in the south of Iraq. In particular, 73 generators have been repaired or maintained and 73 sewage pumping stations and two water compact units in Baghdad are being rehabilitated. In addition, approximately 120,000 litres of fuel are being transported every week to water treatment projects in Baghdad.

Water tankering continues, with a daily average of more than two million litres of potable water being transported to deprived areas in Baghdad. In addition, 100 water tankers are dispatched daily from Kuwait to areas south of Basra, benefiting 150,000 people. A one-month supply of chlorine has been dispatched from central warehouses to all governorates. Chlorine to cover an additional two-month supply is being procured.

Water quality is being tested in Basra in co-ordination with the Water Directorate. The results show not only a reduction in water quantity but also in water quality. The results become evident in the children's hospital in Basra. Recently, 80% of the young patients here suffered from heavy bouts of diarrhoea. With the average daily temperature in Basra over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this crisis shows no signs of abating.

UNICEF is teaming up with UNDP to address some of the urgent issues through repairing water networks and procuring generators. We are greatly alarmed by the present situation in Basra in particular. A large percentage of the city does not receive a stable water supply. It is our clear understanding that the tension in the population relating to insufficient water supply is increasing.

This tension can be clearly seen in the hospitals throughout Basra where guards armed with Kalashnikovs control the entrances of many hospitals. On a daily basis, armed gunmen threaten hospital staff with death if they do not save friends or fellow gang members brought in after the city's latest gun battle. Much of the simple fabric of day-to-day life in Iraq has collapsed. Where relatives were formerly only allowed to visit hospital patients at strictly controlled hours, they now keep a permanent bedside vigil, threatening doctors with violence if lives are not saved.

On health and nutrition, there is now heavy damage to the already fragile health infrastructure in Iraq. In addition, due to continuing insecurity prevailing in major urban centres, professional health staff, as well as patients, must overcome serious risks in order to access health centres and facilities. Breaks in the distribution system of drugs and medical supplies led to shortages and resulted in the closure of primary health care centres, which were the essential primary focal point for health care in Iraq before the war.

Diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera, have been endemic in Iraq over the past decade, ranking among the top three causes of childhood deaths. This situation has rapidly worsened in the past two months due to the breakdown of the electricity, water and sanitation services, and the collapse of the responsible Ministries. The disruption in electricity, the lack of backup generators and fuel shortages compromised the cold chain system, damaging most vaccines. The health of children and women is further threatened by the lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation as garbage is piling up on residential streets, and raw sewage seeping into heavily populated neighbourhoods and homes. The looting and anarchy have seriously damaged the entire health system, creating the fear that eliminated diseases such as polio - Iraq was declared polio free in 1999 - tetanus and measles could reappear.

While UNICEF has secured vaccines to cover needs for the next six months, all 18 governorates have now been provided with a three-month supply of BCG, polio, DPT, measles, TT, and hepatitis vaccines. UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health to launch routine immunisation services on 14 June, the first immunisation activity to take place since the war started. The routine immunisation is now ongoing everywhere in the country, with approximately 80% of facilities capable of resuming their routine immunisation services. Some 4.2 million children under the age of five have been immunised against preventable diseases. The World Health Organisation also contributed to the reactivation of Iraq's expanded programme of immunisation by re-establishing the country's vital disease surveillance system. The remaining 20% of health facilities that are still non-operational are suffering from insecurity, lack of transportation and communication systems, power failure and no salary payment for staff.

The targeted nutrition programme is slowly being reactivated, in addition to procuring and distributing supplies, including high-protein biscuits and therapeutic milk. While some nutrition rehabilitation centres are now operational, as in Muthana and Basra governorates, most centres are not yet ready to admit malnourished children as they still lack necessary equipment. In such cases, children are referred to paediatric hospitals. Health supplies such as antibiotics, IV fluids, syringes, safety boxes and obstetric and minor surgery instruments have been distributed in a variety of other governorates.

The education sector has suffered additional deterioration from the conflict and its aftermath. Preliminary assessment results in all central and southern areas show that most schools have lost all educational materials and equipment as a result of looting which followed the bombing. Some schools have been totally destroyed during the conflict, with particularly urgent needs found in the south where the condition of schools was especially poor in the pre-war period. Moreover, many schools were used by the Iraqi military as ammunition depots for heavy weapons and artillery and are still littered with ammunition. Some schools are currently occupied by the coalition and are used as military bases or have been occupied by new political parties. UNICEF has been vocal in requests that all military would move away from schools.

At present, and in the immediate future, ensuring efficient organisation and conduct of final examinations across the country remain the major challenge for UNICEF and its partners. Planning for the exams involved UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and representatives of the police. Safety issues were reviewed such as costs for transport of exams, student IDs, communication and extra police escorts prior to the commencement of the non-terminal exams - non-end of cycle - which started on June 21. These have now been successfully completed, with approximately 4.5 million children having undertaken the exams. Given prevailing conditions, this can be considered a major achievement, especially as no security incidents have been reported.

The remaining one million children will undertake the terminal exams during the month of July. UNICEF is currently assisting in the planning and implementation of the national terminal exams of the primary, intermediate and secondary schools. Precautionary security measures are also being planned along with the educational and logistics issues related to the organisation of the final exams.

UNICEF's support for this milestone includes the printing and delivering at directorate level of 15 million exam booklets, stationery, pens, computers and photocopiers for the Ministry of Education, and a radio and television social mobilisation campaign.

With regard to rehabilitation of schools, much accelerated work needs to be done to ensure that the country's schools are fit for children. In this context, UNICEF is playing a key co-ordinating role by providing vital data/information for all partners involved in rehabilitation of schools and educational infrastructure. UNICEF has also recruited a large team of engineers to undertake technical assessments of about 1,000 schools in the south and centre over the coming months.

More important, UNICEF has now finalised planning and necessary advance action for procurement of large quantities of education kits. The plan is to provide adequate teaching and learning materials for all primary schools across Iraq by the start of the new school year in mid-September. These kits include supplies for use by children, teachers and schools. While the supplies are in the pipeline and expected to be pre-positioned across all governorates by first week of September, UNICEF is currently finalising, with key partners, the micro plans for this massive back-to-school programme.

On child protection, the protective environment for Iraqi children, which would safeguard them effectively against violence, abuse, exploitation and deprivation of primary care givers, is a priority for UNICEF and now suffers from very serious gaps. The consequences of the conflict are expected to exacerbate the already deteriorated socio-economic conditions and impoverishment which have affected the majority of Iraqi families over the past decade, thus increasing the existing number of children in need of protection-related services.

The absence of the administration of justice, a weak legal framework, and the need to ensure compliance with international norms and standards are serious concerns. The administrative structure of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which was responsible for guaranteeing a protective environment for children, collapsed after the conflict. Schools were closed for about two months and many residential care institutions, including orphanages and schools for disabled children, were systematically looted of their supplies and equipment.

Children in conflict with the law who were held in institutions or reformatories have been released, and it is assumed that many of them ended up in the streets with no support. There are several indications that a growing number of children are living in the streets. For example, there is a visible increase in the number of working children in urban centres such as Baghdad, especially near big hotels, religious places and commercial centres. Children living on the streets are obviously at greater risk of violence and exploitation, including economic and sexual exploitation. Disturbing events, such as the kidnapping of young girls, of which two cases have been confirmed to date, have added to the insecurity that discourages parents from sending their girls to school, and this is a trend about which UNICEF is extremely concerned. This pressing reality adds to the urgent need for schools to re-open and for constructive recreation facilities and activities to remain accessible during the coming holidays as they provide children with the normality needed to cope with their distress.

UNICEF's collaboration with five international aid organisations to investigate the situation in which children live in Iraq today is moving ahead with the planned assessments on child protection which began on 30 June. These studies will assess children's well-being and the coping mechanisms that exist within their families and communities to help them overcome the challenges they face in post-war Iraq.

The study is important because it will cover all 18 governorates in Iraq and will collect information from children to ensure that their voices are heard and integrated into new programmes to assist them and fill the information void. The project will identify especially vulnerable groups of children, including street children, working children, institutionalised children and children in conflict with the law. It will map out where these children are, their needs and what areas of the country require attention.

The massive bombardment during the conflict resulted in a huge amount of unexploded ordnance which threatens the lives of civilians. Children represent by far the largest group of victims of these remnants of conflict. Hospitals report hundreds of cases of mutilations and injuries, especially of children, with at least four children being injured by landmines on a daily basis in Baghdad alone. Unexploded ordnance, landmines and abandoned live ammunition will continue to be a problem in Iraq for years to come as it is now described as the most contaminated country. The pervasiveness of the problem is so huge that military and non-governmental organisation representatives admit that this is beyond their abilities. Mine awareness programmes are being developed. However, it is feared that many civilians, including children, will continue to fall victim to these deadly remnants of war if a huge clean-up effort is not undertaken urgently.

UNICEF has undertaken a wide range of activities to revitalise mine awareness in Iraq. We have conducted a rapid assessment of risky areas with civil defence department personnel, trained civil defence office personnel to develop a work plan for a more in-depth assessment of these areas, distributed to community groups 750,000 copies of an educational leaflet on unexploded ordnance for schoolchildren, and revised existing television spots on unexploded ordnance to ensure new types of ordnance and awareness measures.

As of 30 June, UNICEF has received almost $85 million from international governments for its emergency appeal for Iraq. We acknowledge the support of the Irish Government and especially the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, for his support in recent months. To date, ECHO has donated more than $6 million and last week the European Union approved a new humanitarian aid package worth €37 million to help victims of the ongoing crisis in Iraq. UNICEF Ireland has had a very successful fund-raising campaign with the people of Ireland responding extraordinarily generously to our appeals for assistance for the women and children of Iraq. To date, of the UNICEF family of national committees, that is, donors from the private sector in the 37 national committee countries, we have raised $25 million for the Iraqi emergency appeal. In all, UNICEF has raised about $100 million in its global flash appeal but we are still far short of the $182 million we require.

UNICEF's immediate concern is the sharp reduction in the availability of electricity and water in most of Baghdad and key cities and towns. It is exacerbating the frustration of the inhabitants. Given the power cuts affecting most of Baghdad and the related reduction in water availability, UNICEF has increased its support to essential activities to ensure minimum water and sanitation services in the city as well as in most vulnerable governorates in the south of Iraq.

Despite all the daily challenges, UNICEF has successfully supported two significant events in the daily lives of children. Routine immunisation is back and schoolchildren were able to take their final exams. Both activities were successfully implemented on a national scale bringing together various humanitarian aid partners. The experience and confidence gained by all through the successful organisation of these two national campaigns will greatly facilitate further activities to be undertaken for the children of Iraq. However, we realise in UNICEF that we have many challenges facing us in future.

Those were two relevant and stimulating contributions. Obviously, a great deal of money is available or will become available from the sale of oil. How will it relate to the funds donated at this stage and when will it be available? I understand there can be short-term problems in doing that. What contribution will the occupying forces, as they are now termed, make in this regard in terms of restoring the funds coming from humanitarian aid agencies and others? What is the relationship between those resources and the immediate actions that have been taken by different countries? Would Mr. Donoghue have anything to say about that?

Mr. Donoghue

The focus of the various donors and international agencies will be on the short-term humanitarian needs we have identified, such as water, food shortages and so on. It is generally assumed that the oil revenues, when they are back on stream, will go towards meeting the costs of rebuilding physical infrastructure. Most donors are clear that reconstruction, as understood in the sense of physical infrastructure - rebuilding electricity facilities and dams and so on - will have to be covered from Iraq's resources, especially the oil revenues. Therefore the focus for most donors is on the various short-term humanitarian needs referred to. I do not wish to generalise too much but, from our discussions with our colleagues in the European Union, I feel that attitude is broadly shared.

I join with the Chairman in welcoming officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and UNICEF and thanking the latter for the work it has done and is doing in Iraq and other places and for the briefing documents it sent to us.

I find it difficult to believe that a war of this nature was planned in such detail without any humanitarian plan or at least a significant one being put in place by either the British and American bilateral planners or by the United Nations which, even if it did not authorise the invasion, had ample knowledge that it was coming and, since then, has had ample knowledge of what is happening in Iraq. I find it very difficult to believe, especially given the figures UNICEF has provided, that one in every ten children dies, 70% as a result of diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. What is even more frightening is that, according to the brief, 7.7% of children - almost a million - suffer acute malnutrition compared with about 4% last year. It is almost twice the number. That is an extraordinary situation and it appears to me an issue in itself why a plan for humanitarian aid on the scale needed was not put in place, not just by the United States and the United Kingdom, but also by the UN and others.

On the way this has been handled, the replacement of the US administrator within weeks is indicative of the lack of thinking, as is the slowness in putting in place some form of Iraqi assembly compared with what happened in Afghanistan. Another issue of concern is that no one appears to be taking a handle on this. There has been a suggestion in recent days of an Iraqi assembly. The scandal of no mention being made of weapons of mass destruction and the Westminster whitewash of the Blair Administration document give rise to scandal in their own right.

Will Mr. Donoghue say what has happened to the European Rapid Reaction Force and the Petersberg Tasks? The Dáil, and the other assemblies and legislatures of the European Union member states, approved the Petersberg Tasks. The Irish people voted for them in a referendum. Among the Petersberg Tasks is humanitarian aid. Where is the European Union? Iraq is a state on the border of an EU applicant country. Where is the European Rapid Reaction Force or the humanitarian aid that flows from that? Why is the EU not a player there? It is particularly relevant to us because in four months we take over the Presidency of the EU and we need to address this issue forcefully. Given the forthcoming EU Presidency it is time the committee revisited Iraq or sent arapporteur there so that we can make this an issue in advance of our Presidency and so that that Presidency, and the EU generally, is put under pressure to use the EU’s facilities to address the scandalous issues which can be addressed but which are not, particularly disease and malnutrition.

I am grateful for being updated on the humanitarian situation. When I wrote to the Chairman on 18 June I suggested that it had been some time since the committee was updated on the Iraq situation and I suggested we be given an update on the current humanitarian situation there and the current administrative situation, and that we have a discussion about the weapons of mass destruction, assisted by a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the implications of not finding such weapons. I propose to raise some points regarding those matters.

I thank Mr. David Donoghue and the Department for the update on the humanitarian situation in Iraq and Ms Maura Quinn in particular. UNICEF's briefings have also been invaluable in so far as it had a team in Iraq before the war and that team was retained, bringing relief where security circumstances allowed, particularly in the south of the country. We are all indebted to them for that.

Taking one of the questions put by the Chairman to Mr. Donoghue, there is not so much confusion regarding what will happen to Iraqi oil as one might think. The reality is that this has been answered by Paul Bremer, the current administrator, when he spoke recently at a meeting in Oman in Jordan. I am quoting from someone who has been to Iraq in the past two weeks. The director of economic policy of the CPA, the administration of the occupying forces, Mr. Peter McPherson, told the international donor conference - referred to by Mr. Donoghue - on 24 June: "The infrastructure needs for 2003-2004 are going to be in excess of what oil revenues would pay for . . . in light of this the US Government is considering a plan to pay for reconstruction by mortgaging the country's future oil revenues." I am quoting from theWall Street Journal of 19 June. The proposal involves issuing securities or trade credits backed by projected oil revenue. It is stated that this could generate up to $4 billion a year in financing for Iraq, according to its advocates, including the Coalition for Employment through Experts, a group supported byHaliburton and Bectel.

Mr. Donoghue can talk about this issue or get someone else to do so, but this has met resistance from UN officials and members of the US Administration who - and I emphasise this - doubt the CPA's legal and moral right to assume debts on behalf of the Iraqi people. There is nothing in the Geneva Convention that enables this or in the UN resolution which deals with it.

On oil funds already held, under Resolution 1483 the body that will control oil revenues "to promote the welfare of the Iraqi people . . . for the benefit of the people of Iraq" is neither responsible to the Security Council nor to the World Bank, the IMF and some other named organisations. There is no external representation there of any elected component of the Iraqi people.

That elected component, Paul Bremer, announced in early June that he would be forming a 25 or 30-member political council. This now appears to have been postponed indefinitely. A constitutional conference was also proposed but the result might not be what was wanted - something with which we would be familiar - as there was a considerable likelihood the outcome would have been a Shi'ite-dominated interim government which would produce an Islamic state.

A tragic footnote, though it is more than that, differs from the much vaunted but facilely reported accounts of Afghanistan. A representative of the business community I met last week told me that women are no longer on the streets but have disappeared back into the houses. People from the business sector serve tea to their male counterparts when discussing matters, so women have not been liberated either.

There are other interesting issues. The meeting referred to by Mr. Donoghue is very important and he said there will be another one in the autumn. This relates to security. What Ms Quinn describes is admirable work of a UN agency which is responsible to the world through the United Nations and which has the support of everyone who is here. However, it cannot do its work in the absence of security and it faces a problem in the absence of security in delivering aid where it is most needed in Baghdad. I am told that on the perimeter of security zones operated by the occupying forces there are bands of people who could be affiliated to anyone roaming around with an abundance of weapons. It is calculated that there are five million arms available in Iraq and, according to Michael Birmingham, who was there recently, a nine year old was raped. The police are unarmed while heavily armed factions create a near impossible situation.

This has not been assisted by the disqualification of all members of the Ba'ath party from the police and army, as 250,000 previous members of the armed forces suggested they were simply soldiers who are available for recruitment but who were more or less excluded. However, now I understand that has changed and that they have been offered a kind of benefit which is equivalent to 50% of the salary available.

It is interesting, on the setting up the new Iraqi army, that since I discussed this at the committee Mr. Bremer told the World Economic Forum in Jordan on 22 June that recruitment would begin within two weeks. The adviser on military affairs, Mr. Walter Slocum, the former Under-Secretary for Defence in the Clinton Administration, was selected for this job. The deal was that a division of 12,000 soldiers would be trained and become operational in the first year, with plans to build three divisions of up to 40,000 men. They were quick to stress that this would be a military force whose duties would be to provide military defence of key installations and "protect key facilities" as well as protecting and defending Iraq's borders. The Pentagon has awarded a $48 million contract for this training to Northrop Grumman's subsidiary, Vinelcorp, which has been involved in training the Saudi Arabian army. I have been a critic of the Saddam regime from the beginning but the people who wished to join the army and were available numbered 250,000, with up to 400,000, if one counted reserves. This represents 10% of the Iraqi population and was a form of income, frankly. Therefore, we now have chaos. We have heard a description today of a wasteland. No one should ask members of this committee to be surprised at the consequences, including what would happen in the case of a military strike to children with diarrhoea, hospitals and the electricity supply, which is more important than water. All that was very noble and predictable.

While Ms Quinn is present, I wish to clarify another matter which is abused by the war-mongers and their supporters. A UNICEF document referred to 100,000 casualties if Baghdad was hit. I quoted another source. UNICEF quoted a World Health Organisation document. These figures were quoted on the assumption that the citizens of Baghdad would be used as human shields by the Republican Guard, who would resist, and that there would be a siege. In the event, more than half the population were free to leave. The Republican Guard did not make a stand and we are all grateful that so few died. The notion that opposition to the Iraq war should be retracted because people said so many would die is a cheap remark on which I will not waste much more time.

On the question of what will happen now and when will a civilian administration emerge, approximately $2 billion is being voted for by the US Congress. Recent presentations to a United States committee suggested it could cost $3 billion a month to sustain the current unstable position. In regard to humanitarian aid, I welcome what the Irish Government is doing but I have no time for any naiveté or surprise as to what would happen. It was known and knowable. It was in that sense of being known and knowable that a decision was taken to facilitate the war by way of our decision on Shannon Airport.

I wish to refer to a matter of great concern, that is, the quality of the information provided to this committee and the regular reference to weapons of mass destruction and, in addition, the somewhat tendentious presentation of fact. On 1 July I tabled Parliamentary Question No. 242 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which had been deflected around the place from the Taoiseach. I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make a statement on the significance of Government policy, and previously adopted UN resolutions upon which Government policy may have been based, that attaches to the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The reply was as follows:

In its Resolution 1441 last November, the UN Security Council recognised the threat posed to international peace and security by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

On what basis? Was it the uranium purchased in Nijar? Was it the report prepared from the PhD thesis that had been plagiarised? Where did the information come from? The Minister's reply continued: "This view was based on the fact that since 1998 Iraq had refused to permit the return of the weapons inspectors. . . " The resolution imposing sanctions linked them to the return of the weapons inspectors. In the previous US Administration, the fact that one would end the sanctions if one welcomed the inspectors back had been decoupled, and decoupled arbitrarily by President Clinton's representative. I like to be told the full story either in a Dáil reply or in a representation. The reply continues:

Subsequent to this resolution and when faced with the threat of force, Iraq accepted the return of the inspectors. However, the degree of co-operation which Iraq extended to the inspectors was described by them as less than full. The reports of the inspectors made it clear that many questions remained unanswered regarding Iraq's holdings of weapons of mass destruction. [Hans Blix remarked, "So certain of their existence, so uncertain of their location."]

The fact that the coalition forces which invaded Iraq, citing as justification the Iraqi regime's refusal to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors, have yet to discover weapons of mass destruction, raises questions as to the motives of the Iraqi regime in refusing to fully co-operate with inspectors.

The recent events in Iraq reinforce the need for all states, in the interest of international peace and security, to fully implement resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and to abide by the terms of the UN Charter.

It is clear that the pre-emptive strike was in total violation of the UN Charter and no international legal expert of any status has suggested otherwise.

Given the situation which now exists, it is important that we be apprised of the humanitarian situation on a regular basis. I thank the Chairman and those who made the presentation. It is also important for the Irish Government to realise that this situation will not go away. We must realise that the presentations to this committee have continually stressed the existence of weapons of mass destruction. As a member of the committee, I ask the Chairman to seek from the Department and the Minister the sources of the information on which these statements were made to the committee, Dáil and Seanad. I believe they were made in good faith. Perhaps people were misled, even though I am inclined to doubt it.

I referred to the World Economic Forum in Jordan at which Mr. Bremer said that he wished to start privatising more than 40 Government-owned companies that make products ranging from packaged foods to steel. He said his officials were already working on drafting a modern commercial legal code that would protect investors and property rights. Meanwhile in Washington, US aid has shortlisted ten firms to submit bids for a plan to restructure the Iraq economy into a free market system. This document describes states: "The winning bidder will provide macro-economic reform advice, with a focus on tax, fiscal, exchange rate, monetary policy and banking reforms, and will seek to change policies, laws and regulations that impede private sector development, trade and investment." What is that? Is that included in the Geneva Conventions? Is that not just straight colonisation of a country by occupying forces? I do not expect Mr. Donoghue, Ms Hearns or Mr. Carlos to answer that question because it is a major political issue. However, it is an unavoidable question and it will not be possible to deflect the attention of the Dáil or this committee onto humanitarian aid without answering that question. I could say much more on that issue. For example, where construction is taking place, there has been a replacement of Iraqi work forces on the basis that the standard of work does not meet the standards required by people to whom sub-contracts have been awarded.

It is a tragedy when a country which was so vulnerable has been destroyed like this. This is not a case of bashing anyone. I am simply making the case for the truth to be made available to the Dáil, Seanad and this committee in relation to the reconstruction of Iraq. The reconstruction has been damaged by the fact that some senior people in the different ministries are not now at their offices, even though middle ranking people are. The offices of the oil ministry has been ransacked, with the destruction of more than 100 years of records, files and seismic information. There has been looting of files in Basra. It will take a long time to reconstruct the country. Equipment from most of the 40 oil wells in production prior to the war was carried away in 50 trucks. As the oil will not now flow sufficiently to meet even the current needs, how will Iraq survive? Can one put up for sale its future resources to draw in private money from abroad and suggest this is some kind of transformation or emerging conditions for the building of a civilian contract? It is appalling and it is necessary that we speak truthfully and unequivocally on where we stand on these issues.

I thank Mr. Donoghue, Ms Hearns and Mr. Carlos from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Ms Quinn and Ms Savage from UNICEF. In recent months, the committee has made a number of strong suggestions. For example, I seconded a proposal by Deputy Michael Higgins that we visit Iraq to ascertain the current situation there. I hope this will happen. We will have to see how events unfold.

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Tom Kitt, for appearing before the Seanad on three occasions, before the war, during it and after it, to discuss Iraq and inform the House what the Government was doing in terms of humanitarian aid. Senators were pleased with his visits, particularly the openness with which he informed us of what was happening. His character came through in his speech. As Leader of the Seanad, I convey to him on behalf of Senators our appreciation for his visits and comments.

It is impossible for us to talk about the current circumstances in Iraq without discussing the events which gave rise to them. Although one wishes to ask what should be done now the war is over, one must first examine what happened beforehand. It gives me no solace to say that many months ago in the Seanad - Senators will bear this out - I stated my belief that regardless of what efforts were undertaken by the United Nations or what meetings were held, war was inevitable because the United States wanted it. I also stated I did believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While they may yet appear by magic, I remain doubtful.

Despite this, we feel ambiguous on the issue of Iraq because nobody wanted Saddam Hussein to remain in power. We all know he was a tyrant who treated his people badly. If one expressed misgivings about war, one was lumped in with those who were in favour of Saddam Hussein, which would be a ridiculous position for anyone to have. If one expressed concerns, one was somehow beyond the pale, a supporter of a tyrant and opponent of what was described as a just invasion, which it definitely was not. We recall 1 May, which was supposed to be the day of wine and roses and flowers strewn before the troops as they entered Baghdad. Instead of May Day, we have had mayhem.

I have read extensively on this issue and given it a great deal of thought and hope my views do not appear simplistic. It seems the invading forces had a plan A but no plan B. In the former they perceived that everything would come right, everybody would say "hurrah", roses would be strewn before them and we would move on quickly to a period of reconstruction and humanitarian aid. This is not remotely how events unfolded. A detailed plan B, which laid out in a logical fashion what would happen in Iraq once the forces of occupation took over, was absent. Each day has been worse than the previous one and the conditions of the people are worse than before the invasion. At the same time, however, we are aware that the will of the tyrant and his rule were wrong and had to broken, although not by means of the methods used. What is now happening is disastrous. Humanitarian aid is available and, as Deputy Michael Higgins stated, strong efforts are under way - I will address the role of UNICEF later. We do not know how to impose order in the current mayhem because of its fundamental nature.

Before the meeting, I noticed a photograph in a newspaper of apro tem council which has been formed in Iraq. It showed four men with two women placed at the front of the group. This is a sham. As someone pointed out, women are not seen in the streets of the country because they are not allowed out.

We must continue to press for a role for the United Nations. Mr. Donoghue stated it was vital that the United Nations play a central role in any recovery process and noted the belief of the Government and our partners that the UN should be at the heart of the reconstruction process. While we all agree on this point, the United Nations was not at the heart of the decision-making process. Irrespective of what the UN said or how many times its inspectorate reported to the Security Council in carefully guarded language - one could divine throughout that there were no weapons of mass destruction - it did not matter. The United Nations was to be set to one side and its views ignored. It must be central to reconstruction and humanitarian aid. While I hope this will be the case, if we are to garner any lessons from these events, it must be to renew and reinvigorate the authority of the United Nations and its responsibility, as of right, for these matters, which was wrongly put to one side in a cavalier manner. The United Nations should be allowed to continue to do work of this nature.

We were treated recently to the spectacle of a cultural exhibition in Baghdad, to which journalists from all over the world were invited. Large photographs of the event appeared in the newspapers. I am glad many of the cultural artefacts of Iraq were not looted, as we had believed. To be more accurate, they were probably retrieved. The rush to display this cultural exhibition was designed to encourage people to believe that because it was possible to view some of the nicer sides of life, the situation in Iraq had returned to normal, which is not the case. The exhibition was hurriedly assembled to give this impression.

We need to see how everything will be put together again in Iraq. How, for example, will democracy be introduced, whether at local, interim, provincial, city or national level? Given that there was no democracy under the previous regime, it will have to take root and flourish. The question of allowing the people of Iraq to take decisions is fundamental. I do not know how this will be brought about, particularly if only half the country's power requirements are being met. All hands will need to be on the wheel if water and sanitation are at such low levels. Basic services such as power, water, sanitation, education, policing and security must be restored first. Salaries are also not being paid. People will not continue to work without pay. How could they? I am not satisfied that any group or country is sufficiently willing to keep at this task and grind it out for as long as is required to give meaning to real life in Iraq.

I thank Ms Quinn and her team who continue to inform us as to what is really happening. I commend what they have done in regard to immunisation and education. Immunisation provides for children's health both now and in the future. It is a heartening fact that young people sat their final examination because, while we do not know what is in store for them, at least they will have their certificates stating they successfully completed their schooling. That was a far-seeing step to take and I am aware that other international agencies worked with UNICEF on it. It has lit a candle for many people which, I hope, in time will lead them out of their current morass.

We need to keep this matter permanently on the agenda. We should continue to look at what happens in Iraq and at the real efforts that are being made there. While I see the potential for oil revenues I am not optimistic that it will be realised. I am concerned that such talk will stymie international goodwill and the flow of money into Iraq. The grand reconstruction conference which will be held in October will be a good photo opportunity. I accept that plans have to be made but by then the people will be facing into winter, which will be a difficult time for the poor. The situation is fraught with difficulties and the committee should continue to keep it on the agenda. We should continue to request authoritative accounts, political as well as humanitarian, in regard to what is happening so that we can monitor it and make an input, no matter how small that might be. I am aware that other people feel as I do. The war has reactivated power struggles in the world. It is important that people in small countries with thoughts and ideas should share them as a first step towards examining the direction in which the world is going.

I join in welcoming members of the deputation from the humanitarian aid section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and also Ms Maura Quinn and MsJulianne Savage from UNICEF.

I share the frustration of other members' in respect of divorcing the humanitarian situation from the wider political issues. It would have been preferable to have a joined-up conversation about the humanitarian issues and the wider political context in which they have evolved.

Deputy Gay Mitchell posed the question as to how the war could have been prosecuted without contingency plans being made for the humanitarian outturn. Of course, all of this, as Deputy Michael D. Higgins said, was completely foreseeable. It was anticipated and it is precisely because of the appalling outturn in humanitarian terms that the United Nations was so conflicted. It was because everybody saw that the war, win or lose, would result in appalling loss of life, economic degradation, human desperation, anarchy, insecurity and all of the things that are now happening, that it was prosecuted with the highest degree of fractured international consensus since the Second World War.

The Chairman will remember when the battle drums were heard, before the start of the war, that we went to the United Nations at the end of our term on the Security Council to have discussions with Hans Blix, a man who should be lauded for his courage under fire. He maintained his impartiality under huge pressure and tried to hold the line against the rush to war. He was mindful of the humanitarian implications of such a war. It appeared to those of us who visited the UN at that time that there were people in one room preparing for war while in another room people were anticipating the appalling vista of humanitarian damage that would follow such a war. The "oil for food" people had their heads in their hands. The whole place was conflicted.

Just as the war was conflicted, so too is the reconstruction. No attempt has been made to rebuild international consensus on a way forward in regard to Iraq. Donor conferences dealing with who is going to pick up the tab for reconstruction, which is a big political issue, are being held at a time when there are great unmet needs in Africa. The European Union, the Commission and individual EU states have allocated €700 million to Iraq. Ireland has allocated €5 million, while in our hearts we know that Africa is so needy. We knew this when the potential for a war in Iraq was being discussed. The world knew that Africa was starving but that fact was swept aside. In fairness to Ireland, it attempted to keep the humanitarian situation to the fore and tried to warn of the dangers of war at the Security Council. Our voice needs to be heard there again.

As Senator O'Rourke said, a coherent plan for the recovery of Iraq has not emerged. Who is to pay the bill? Who is to manage the reconstruction? Is it to be the wider international community or the United Nations? How can it be the United Nations when the wounds have not, as yet, been healed? The authority of the United Nations has been diminished. The occupying powers are still calling the shots on the ground. As yet, there is no indication that there is a grand plan for reconstruction. In the meantime, there is an appalling humanitarian disaster with children dying at greater levels than before the war.

It is important that we have an opportunity to discuss with the Minister, Deputy Cowen, Ireland's stance in regard to the Security Council through our membership of other international fora, not only in regard to humanitarian issues but in terms of the wider political issue of where we go from here in regard to rebuilding the fractured relationships between the United States and the European Union on the one hand, as well as the potential clash of cultures pending between the United States and Islam. I do not see any overarching plan to heal those rifts. As a non-aligned country, Ireland has great ties of friendship with the United States as well as proven solidarity with it in difficult times. We have a role in at least articulating the need for that conversation to begin between the United States and the European Union at the highest level.

While I thank the spokespersons for humanitarian aid for attending I know they are neither able, equipped or minded to answer the broader political questions we have posed in regard to the future for Iraq. One of the primary questions relates to the veracity of information which was given to the committee, the United Nations, the American people and the British people on weapons of mass destruction. Questions have been raised in that regard in the British Parliament. Only yesterday it was admitted by the United States Government that incorrect information was given in President Bush's State of the Union Address. All of these matters are extremely important in terms of international relations and the integrity of the international and diplomatic process. I would welcome an opportunity of debating these issues with the Minister, Deputy Cowen, to investigate how we are to take these matters forward.

I take a somewhat different approach to those of the previous speakers. The role of this committee and of our country should be to make a determined effort to assist Iraq in any way we can. We must see the problems that exist: humanitarian, security and infrastructural problems as well as the political problems. In order to get a proper perspective on the issues we need a far more balanced view on the cause of those problems. That has not happened here so far. I am talking about the members of the committee, as opposed to our guests.

Iraq has had enormous problems: it has been for the past 15 or 20 years one of the most awful countries to live in. It had an eight-year war with Iran in which a million people died. That was caused by the invasion by Saddam Hussein. Then there was the invasion of Kuwait, again thanks to Saddam Hussein. Then there were ten or 12 years of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. I do not agree with sanctions generally; I opposed those sanctions. Let us bear in mind, however, that the UN, to which we all bow down at times as the answer to all the problems in the world, imposed those sanctions. I mention this in passing. Of course, the problems were exacerbated by the efforts to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Some of us always supported sanctions.

Yes, we are agreed on that. So that we may see things from the proper perspective, let us consider what has happened in the past. I am not beating any drums, war drums or otherwise. I merely say that Saddam Hussein, on his own and in concert with others, brought that country, which could have been one of the wealthiest in the world, to its knees. This was made worse by the efforts to get rid of Saddam. I am delighted that Saddam is gone. My only regret is that he and his two even more awful sons are still at large. Following Saddam's departure from power there was looting and sabotage, much of it carried out by remnants of his regime, and there is now a state of unrest in Iraq.

We are where we are now. I do not propose to return to UN resolutions, nor do I pretend to be an expert on international law. I do not believe, however, that those who were quoting certainties on either side of the argument are correct. One can argue very forcibly for either side, but it is irrelevant. As a small country, we should be examining how we can help. There are several different levels at which we can assist. There is assistance at a bilateral level, through the European Union, and there is assistance through the UN. Our major focus of attention should be on that.

I am glad that so much is being done at a humanitarian level, through UNICEF and others, but can more be done? Can we directly or indirectly assist in getting more humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people in their hour of need? I do not know, but if we can, let us see what we can do, directly or indirectly. We cannot assist directly in security. In the matter of infrastructure, the oil revenues are relevant. I am aware that there are difficulties; oil pipelines are being blown up and there has been deliberate sabotage of the oil infrastructure. This has become enormously run down over the past 15 or 20 years and needs huge investment. Can we do anything to assist in this area, directly or indirectly?

We may have something to offer or positive suggestions to make. It is sterile for this committee to rake over the dead coals of the past. Our focus should be on making proposals for assistance and encouraging our country to be more positive, if possible, in its approach to the areas I have mentioned so that there will be a direct benefit, now and in the future, to the Iraqi people.

I welcome our guests and thank them for their detailed presentations. I support what Deputy Higgins said earlier. The Deputy raised these issues a number of times, detailing the purpose of the meeting in his letter of 18 June. I find it very difficult to understand why a meeting could not be arranged for now, 9 July, with the key people present to enable those issues to be discussed. I do not know the explanation for this, but I hope that in the future this committee can arrange to have special meetings on issues at times at which the key people with the expertise to address these issues are available. We should not turn up to find things as they are today.

I want to rake over the coals very briefly. As Senator O'Rourke said, there was a Plan A for the war and no Plan B. It is worth remembering that Plan A was to devastate Iraq - it was called "shock and awe". Everybody knew what the effects of this would be on a country that was already devastated and was already experiencing horrific problems. I find it difficult to understand how the USA and the UK could organise and finance such a massively expensive, high-tech war while UNICEF is left without $82 million for its appeal fund. Was it the policy of the USA and the UK to devastate a country and cause incredible humanitarian problems without attempting to address these? We have already asked that the British Ambassador and the chargé d'affaires from the United States Embassy be invited to speak to the committee because that question needs to be put to them. Unfortunately, this country has a special responsibility in this because we participated in "shock and awe" by making Shannon Airport available to the troops involved.

Perhaps I have missed something, but I think the question has already been asked about who foots the bill for the immediate humanitarian needs. I am at a loss to understand how a UN organisation such as UNICEF which is doing such critical work on the ground there can be left without $82 million in the aftermath of a war which cost billions of dollars.

I thank Mr. Donoghue and Ms Quinn for their presentations. The picture they paint is bleak but it is important to go back to the root causes of this humanitarian crisis. Is it not a fact that the sanctions and the illegal, unjust and counterproductive war that followed are based on a gross deception? I want to analyse this in some detail. There are two deceptions: first, the collusion and cover-up regarding Shannon Airport; second, the way our Ministers swallowed the Bush-Blair line on weapons of mass destruction.

On the first point I have tough questions for the officials which I hope they can answer. It is important that we document this. The first sightings of US planes occurred at the end of September 2002. On 12 November 2002 a question was put to the Minister in the House and he said he was not in a position to provide any more specific information on the issue. He went on to insist that there had not been any significant change in the pattern of overflights and landings by foreign military aircraft in recent months. On 26 November 2002, in response to a parliamentary question which I tabled, he said that if foreign aircraft were overflying or landing at Shannon they had to follow the relevant legal guidelines; they had to be unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives and not form part of a military operation. The rest of his reply was quite extraordinary: "Permission for landings and overflights is normally granted for foreign military aircraft on the basis that the aircraft is unarmed" but he goes on to say that "successive governments have accepted in good faith that the details supplied to the Department of Foreign Affairs by diplomatic missions are accurate and in this situation checks of the nature referred to by the Deputy are not conducted". I wanted the Department to check to see if indeed they were carrying arms and I would like the officials to explain, now that they know that this is not the case, whether this will continue to be the policy. As Deputy Gregory said, we are contributing to this crisis through this collusion.

On 12 January 2003 the story broke inThe Observer that troops were going through Shannon and that arms were being ferried through Shannon. One worker was quoted as saying that several of the transport planes using the airport carried only weaponry but the troops arriving in Ireland were fully armed. Another commented that Aer Rianta and the police had introduced a policy of turning a blind eye to what was happening, that he had seen guns and weapons, and there was no great effort to hide them. On 13 January 2003 the Minister issued a statement to the effect that he confirmed that Shannon was being used as a transit by US military and that none of the military planes in the recent past was declared as carrying munitions. Third, he acknowledged that contrary to his statement on 26 November 2002 troops travelling on civilian aircraft are sometimes accompanied by their personal weapons. He had to go back because he had been caught. This was illegal under the Defence Act 1954.

We have been supplied with incorrect information in the House. On 20 March 2003, when we discussed the motion in the House, the Taoiseach talked about the long-standing arrangement that existed between Ireland and the US with regard to Shannon Airport. I would like the officials to comment directly on a document from the security policy section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, dated 16 December 2002, which revealed that what was occurring at Shannon was exceptional. It notes that this occurred on an exceptional basis. This contradicts what the Taoiseach said later.

The document confirmed two important issues. First, that the use of Shannon Airport was exceptional and not part of a long-standing arrangement, contradicting the Taoiseach; and second, that the specific justification of this exceptional use was to support for a fight against terrorism and comply with UN obligations. Neither of those statements is true, so the Department cannot justify it on those exceptional grounds. Even going back to 20 March 2003 this was the line used to explain why we were participating in this war against terrorism. The Taoiseach justified the decision on Shannon on the grounds that Iraq had shown a willingness, given the opportunity, to strike directly against US targets, and that Saddam Hussein had shown a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against his enemies and his own people. We know that from the attack on Halabja, which my colleague raised but about which the Irish Government did little at the time.

To move specifically to the issue of weapons of mass destruction and how often it was used as an excuse by the Irish Government, Deputy Cowen, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated on 23 October 2002 that "to this day there is no guarantee that Iraq no longer possesses these dreadful and illegal weapons. Instead there is good reason to suspect that Iraq has continued to pursue this programme." In his statement on 29 January 2003 he said: "Iraq's account so far is simply not believable. . . The Iraqis were known to be in possession of well documented quantities of weapons. Where are those weapons now?" I put it to the officials, where are those weapons now? That is what the Minister said to us on 29 January. On 11 February 2003 he said: "Twelve years passed during which Iraq made no effort to comply. On the contrary, Iraq has used every means at its disposal to conceal its weapons, to obstruct the arms inspectors and to thwart the will of the international community." He went on and on, I need hardly quote it all. On 13 September 2002 he said: "The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear - is, of course, an issue that goes far beyond Iraq; they represent a major threat to international peace and security." This is what he said at the United Nations General Assembly. On 23 October he said: "Ireland shares in the growing international consensus that the Iraqi regime poses a potential threat to international security". Finally on 29 January 2003 he said: "This defiance is ultimately as much a threat to international security as is the possession of weapons of mass destruction. But the possession of these dreadful weapons is the immediate threat which must be dealt with."

I have documented to some extent the way this was used over and over again to justify what I describe as our participation although others say it is not. I want the officials to comment on that and to say how they feel about that now that we know that these weapons have not been discovered or probably do not exist. We are owed an explanation. I agree with Deputy O'Donnell that the Minister, Deputy Cowen, is the person who should be present to answer these questions. I hope the Dáil is never treated again with the sort of contempt I have documented.

I welcome the experts and thank them for their information. I am sure Mr. Donoghue was involved in the compilation of many of the quotes we have listened to from Deputies Gormley and Michael Higgins. I hope their questions will be answered.

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. He butchered millions of his people. There is incontrovertible evidence that he used chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction against his people. There is evidence that he paid for the export of terrorism. Right up until the last weeks of his regime he was handing over money to the martyrs, as they are called, Palestinian suicide bombers and their families.

I have no doubt people can quote and interpret anything they wish. However, we never actively participated in this war as we did not send troops. We operated along the lines we have always operated on. It is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs to answer the questions that have been asked. Opinion polls have shown that the majority of Irish people supported the Government's decision on the overflights and refuelling of US planes at Shannon Airport. The Taoiseach has frequently made it clear that the two most important bilateral relations for Ireland are Britain and the US. Nobody would be thanked for disrupting that, as it would mean the loss of jobs. However great it is to be abstract and aspirational, I live in the real world and I wonder if some of my colleagues——

I live in the real world too. I am not abstract or aspirational.

It was abstract and much of what the Deputy said is open to question. Just because the Deputy said it does not mean it is right.

No, but I am quoting from documents.

Members, please.

I have sat here——

Just specify it.

I have sat here and listened to a one and a half hour diatribe. I am interested to hear what has to be said.

It was not a diatribe.

Is there any sense of fear among the ordinary Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein is obviously alive? Ms Quinn of UNICEF may be in a better position to answer this. According to the tapes broadcast on Al-Jazeera, he is now urging the Iraqi people to sabotage and take action against the occupying troops. Is this inhibiting UNICEF's application of humanitarian aid? I read a report that the policemen employed under the new regime are afraid in public and see themselves as targets of these dissident elements.

Is there any feeling in the UN or the Department of Foreign Affairs that the coalition, particularly the US, is moving to a viewpoint that the UN should be more actively involved in providing humanitarian aid? We are all aware that prior to the war, during it and in its immediate aftermath, the coalition made it clear that the UN had no role to play. There were elements in the US administration that considered the UN - to quote an American colloquialism - a "busted flush".

As I and others have argued - I am sure Deputies Gormely and Michael Higgins will agree - the UN should be the primary source of our foreign policy involvement in terms of multilaterlism. I disagree with the American view that it is a unilateral world where there is no room for any other view than that of a state that believes might is right. They should be held up to the world and asked to account for actions in that regard.

If we as a small nation do not have the UN and a moral order within the world - flawed as it might be - then all small nations will live in fear. US dominance of the world has been best exemplified in forcing 43 states with low GDP and relying exclusively on US aid to exempt the US from the International Court of Justice. It is another example of an empire using its muscle in order to get its way.

The two questions are interlinked. Do the US believe now that the role of the UN should be more proactive because of the vast experience that it and its agencies have as exemplified by Ms Quinn from UNICEF? Or are they still operating on the premise that they can do everything in post-war Iraq without any help from outside?

We have heard a number of contributions. We appreciate that Ms Quinn's involvement is on the humanitarian side. There is a great deal we will have to deal with afterwards, but I request her to answer some of the questions.

Ms Quinn

As a UN agency I do not propose to get into the political discussion around the rights and wrongs of the war on Iraq. To answer specifically the questions raised by Senator Mooney, the biggest challenge that all the humanitarian agencies currently face is the lack of security. We are unable to do our work because the security is so poor. There is no indication that it is likely to improve. There seems to be no strategy in place on the ground. Until it changes dramatically, we are completely impeded in our work.

On whether the Iraqi population is still living under threat of the possible existence of Saddam Hussein, I was in Iraq in February before the war. At that point, most Iraqi people were busy getting on with normal life. Living conditions were so poor, the people had no great interest in the regime. They were so busy ensuring there was food on the table and their children had adequate healthcare. However, that situation has continued to deteriorate. It is beyond people's capacity. Baghdad has less than half its current requirement of electricity. The sanitation system has also deteriorated dramatically. Literally the business of existence is what is taking people's attention.

Is UNCIEF equated with the occupying powers?

Ms Quinn

As is the case in most of the countries we operate in, the vast majority of our staff are Iraqi nationals and were there throughout the conflict. As they have been there since the mid-1980s we have built strong and close relations with the Iraqi people. No, we are not is the answer to that question.

Mr. Donoghue

I will respond to a number of the points raised which fall into my area of competence. I thank Senator O'Rourke for her remarks on the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Tom Kitt's attention to this issue in the Dáil and the Seanad.

Deputy Mitchell raised the question of the EU's contribution to the humanitarian effort. The EU, including the Commission, has allocated more than €700 million in emergency humanitarian aid to the crisis. It has delivered more than €297 million of this to date. It is also worth making the point that the European Union and its member states are the largest providers of humanitarian aid and development assistance globally. Regarding Iraq, the ECHO office, the humanitarian aid office of the European Commission, has been playing a leading role and allocated €100 million to the crisis. Overall the EU has a reasonably good record of commitment to its humanitarian aspects. However, that is not to say that it cannot be improved. It is certainly an issue which comes up regularly at both political and official level in the European Union. We are among those pressing for more generous funding.

In answer to a point made by another member of the committee, while we feel that the provision made so far from the Ireland Aid or Development Corporation Ireland budget has been adequate, we stand ready, as the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, has made clear on several occasions, to examine it again in light of developments and see whether we might be able to increase that. A further point made by Deputy Higgins concerned the question of how oil revenues might be utilised over the longer term, and he quite rightly referred to Paul Bremer's idea. We were quite realistic about the time scale within which oil revenues might ever be available to support the infrastructural and other needs of the Iraqi people. We do not see that happening in the short-term, and, therefore, I imagine that multilateral organisations such as the EU and the UN agencies will come under pressure to support work in that area. In the short-term, our efforts are focused on humanitarian aid, but there comes a point where one is moving into the recovery phase and trying to build up the new administration's capacity to respond to the new problems. Governance and the rebuilding of democratic institutions will be another urgent priority. That would come under the general heading of reconstruction. We would certainly be sympathetic to efforts by the international community to rebuild democratic institutions.

Ireland and other member states are wary of Iraq's physical infrastructure being rebuilt from ODA resources. That would appear to most people to be something for the oil revenues, as and when they come on stream. It is worth mentioning that current oil revenues are being used by the WFP under the oil for food programme.

On security I strongly agree that one cannot seriously deliver a significant amount of aid as long as the situation on the ground is insecure. We have daily evidence of how insecure things are. Notwithstanding that, the UN agencies and the NGOs are doing their best, and we are in constant contact with the Irish NGOs on the ground. They are doing great work despite the fact that several are working in extremely dangerous areas. However, as Deputies will know, there is tension between getting aid distributed fast and finding that the situation is so volatile that logistically it is a massive challenge to do so. Happily, the NGOs and multilateral organisations are willing to try to operate despite that enormous problem.

There is a meeting coming up in the development assistance committee of the OECD in a few weeks which will address the security aspect of the humanitarian effort as well as longer-term prospects. We are therefore not just waiting for the conference which comes up in October. I very much agree with Deputy O'Donnell's analysis of the situation and the role which Ireland could play in rebuilding relations between the EU and the US. I know that the Minister, Deputy Cowen, envisages that priority for our Presidency. I also know that he is working very actively on that front. It is an obvious area in which Ireland has some influence and a good record to bring to bear. It is fair to say that we are seen as one of the best-placed countries to restore relations between the US and the EU.

Deputy O'Keeffe referred to the possibility of increased humanitarian aid, and I have dealt with that as far as our national programme is concerned. However, we are also encouraging colleagues in the EU to keep the humanitarian side of the Iraqi crisis at the top of their list of priorities. Regarding Senator Mooney's point, the US has accepted that the UN should play a central role in the humanitarian field. From the outset, it has been reasonably clear about that. When the UN convened the recent conference in New York, the US attended. It accepted that, in the humanitarian field, the UN should have a central role. I am using the phrase that has been used on many occasions. It is on the wider remit of the UN that the US has reservations. We are reasonably satisfied that the US is supportive of the UN's role co-ordinating the work of the different agencies, including UNICEF obviously, but also the UNHCR, the UNDP and other agencies. Of course, the UN is involved in the operation of the Oil for Food Programme. That is going ahead as a central instrument of the humanitarian operation.

Was Mr. Donoghue getting any sense at all of a wider role?

Mr. Donoghue

I could not comment on that because of the limitations of my brief. I can only talk about how they are working in the humanitarian field. I am not privy to the channels of information that would arise, because I am in charge of the development co-operation and the humanitarian aspect of the Department. For that reason, I am unable to accept Deputy Gormley's kind invitation to comment on the various quotations which he presented earlier. Perhaps he was absent at the beginning of the meeting, and I apologise if that was not put to him.

I accept what Mr. Donoghue is saying, but I feel it is unacceptable that we have a meeting——

We dealt with this at the beginning of this meeting.

Not to our satisfaction.

The fact of the matter is that we dealt with it. I do not want to go over it again after two and a half hours. There is no need to go back over something that has already been recorded. We know the position and will do what was asked earlier.

Can we have a meeting on weapons of mass destruction?

Mr. Donoghue

We will obviously be happy to convey the points made across the range of policies back to the Minister and our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs. That goes without saying.

Where I used a quotation, I gave the venue, the date and the reference. If anyone wishes to pursue them further, I would be delighted to provide them.

Perhaps I might briefly say that the word "diatribe" might not have been the most appropriate regarding my friend and colleague, Deputy Higgins.

It was insulting, and was intended to be so.

That was not my intention.

The remarks are withdrawn.

Will Ms Quinn of UNICEF clarify the issue of its setting a target. Presumably it urgently required €182 million. What are the implications of not being able to reach that target?

Ms Quinn

Obviously, the situation is ongoing, and we are continuously reviewing our requirements. There is currently a serious shortfall. Donor Governments said that they would be reluctant to provide humanitarian assistance in the likely event of war occurring. That has played out quite realistically up to now.

At the moment we would be under a severe resource deficit on this issue. In addition, we also had a serious contingency plan in place before the war which in fact mitigated the worst effects of the bombing campaign. We were able to immunise a large number of children and bring in large quantities of food and other resources which we would not necessarily have had in advance of the war. That cost us in the region of $9 million - UNICEF's own funding - for which we actually did not receive funding at that time. The kitty is now well and truly empty.

I should like to ask Ms Quinn a question. Deputy Higgins and I were in Iraq about two and half years ago. At that stage the big problem was access to clean water and the sewage treatment plants. Could Ms Quinn put an estimate on how much that would cost to fix because it is the problem? I know electricity is a huge problem, but access to clean water is also of major concern.

Ms Quinn

I would not, quite honestly, attempt a 'guesstimate' of what that is. It is a huge issue, because, as you know, many of the water and sanitation plants were never rehabilitated, so the quality of water requires a vast amount of infrastructural work. Quite honestly, I could not give the Deputy an estimate on that at present.

May I ask Mr. Donoghue a small practical question? Deputy Gormley mentioned that he was there with me about two and half years ago. I have been there about three times, in all. Should this committee decide, for example, in the future, to send a representative back to look at the humanitarian situation or the reconstruction programme, is it the case that they would have to go just to Jordan and go across the border or to whom would one apply for a visa?

Mr. Donoghue

I do not have the answer at the moment for the Deputy. I would be happy to consult with colleagues in the Department on that and we can get back to him.

I am very grateful to you, Chairman. That is a matter of urgency because I am not sure whether one should write to the authority in Baghdad or if one should deal with one of the occupying powers.

I should like, on behalf of the committee, to thank David Donoghue, Áine Hearns and William Carlos from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Maura Quinn and JulianneSavage from UNICEF, for their informative presentations and their very full and detailed reports, which have been appreciated by everybody. It is heartening to see so much work going on, both by the Department and especially by UNICEF. There are other questions we would like to ask and we will have to seek answers to them later. We will keep the whole issue under review, as was suggested by some members. We will also consider other matters, such as sending a member to Iraq or asking Maura Quinn to go as arapporteur at a later stage. We will try to fill in as much information in advance, to be as informed as possible and, perhaps, Deputy Higgins’s friend in the oil industry might be able to advise us as well. He is keeping him well informed on the situation with regard to oil.

He did a good job on the Marian Finucane show, as well.

On behalf of the committee I wish to thank the witnesses for the work they are doing. This was something we had anticipated. We were very concerned about this issue from the beginning. When we were with the UN we made these points very clear, also. Obviously the witnesses have been doing their utmost to meet all demands. It is a tragedy that we are now faced with what we had anticipated. As Deputy Jim O'Keeffe said, at this stage the main thing is to focus on what we can do, how we can assist and how we can get others to pay their appropriate share of the cost. There is an enormous cost involved and with all the other issues involved there is a danger that will be lost sight of. Certainly, the presentations have been exemplary and very heartening from our point of view.

In the context of what you have just said, Chairman, and previous remarks, I share the view that listening here this afternoon was a little like Hamlet without the prince. Every effort should be made to have representatives of both the United States and of Great Britain to appear before this committee to answer many of the questions which were not answered and that I accept - on behalf of Deputy Gormley and Deputy Higgins - are very genuine.

We have made attempts already——

I am just reiterating. For all our sakes we need to get answers. We cannotbe talking to ourselves, continuously, on thisissue.

Were there refusals from the Embassy?

We did not get acceptances.

Did the Chairman get anything?

I do not think that diplomatically you get refusals. That is the situation. As there is no other business, I declare the meeting adjourned.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.25 p.m.