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January 29, 2015

Make our weak Climate Bill stronger!

 
Trócaire has welcomed the publication of the long-awaited Climate Action Bill.
 
Unfortunately this Bill, as it currently stands, does little to address Ireland’s responsibilities towards lowering our carbon emissions and working towards climate justice.
 
Time is limited!  We only have a few short weeks before this Bill, named the ‘Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill’ becomes law which is why we need your urgent help.  We cannot let Ireland continue to shirk its responsibilities around climate change.  
 
We need you to tweet and meet your local TD.  They are the people who are ultimately responsible for strengthening this Bill.  
 
The next few weeks are critical to getting this Bill strengthened.  Watch our video to find out how you can help…
 

 

Meet your TD in Dublin on 10th February

Meet your TD at the Stop Climate Chaos lobby event in Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2, on 10th February 2015.  
 
Find out how to invite your TD to the event in Buswells Hotel by emailing or phoning Trócaire Campaign officer, Orla Quinn, at orla.quinn@trocaire.org or 01 5053229.  Orla will provide all the necessary information you need in advance of the meeting. Orla and other Stop Climate Chaos members will be at the lobby event to help and support you on the day. 
 
If you can’t join us on February 10th, you can still lobby your TD in your local constituency, by organising a meeting with with your TD to discuss the issues. Email or phone Trócaire Campaign officer, Orla Quinn, at orla.quinn@trocaire.org or 01 5053229 for advice on organising and conducting this meeting.
 
You can also check out our Activist Toolkit for further guidance on lobbying your TD.
 

Tweet Minister Alan Kelly TD and your local TD

Another powerful way to influence Minister Alan Kelly and your local TD is through twitter. Find your local TD’s twitter handle at whoismytd.com
 
Here are four suggested tweets you can copy and paste.  Remember to put your TD's twitter handle in where it reads <your local TD>.
 
@alankellylabour Please ensure #climatebill includes definition of low carbon, independence of advisors, and principle of #climate justice.
 
@alankellylabour Please ensure #climatebill includes the recommendation for quick adoption of the first National Mitigation Plan.  
 
@<your local TD> Your voice is needed to strengthen the #climatebill. Key recommendations here: http://tinyurl.com/k5emkar
 
@<your local TD> Our #climatebill is too weak and needs these urgent amendments: http://tinyurl.com/k5emkar  Will you act?
 
 

What’s wrong with the Climate Action Bill?

1. It fails to set a numeric target for emission reduction for the future. This is a fundamental flaw, as it means there is little concrete direction for the coming years.  In place of a numeric target, an alternative option is to define what is meant by low carbon, which would at least provide some clarity.  This definition is also missing!
 
2.  The body tasked with giving advice to the Government on climate change matters is not independent, despite the advice from the Environment Committee that all members should be independent of State or stakeholder interests. Instead the Bill provides for a body of no more than 9 members, 4 of whom represent state bodies.
 
3.  It does not provide for the inclusion of climate justice. The Climate Action Bill is about mapping out a strong and sustainable future for Ireland. It is also about ensuring that Ireland lives up to its global responsibilities. As a nation that has benefited from our own development to date, we need to do our fair share. The Tánaiste declared to the UN General Assembly in 2011 that "there is a compelling case for 'climate justice' – bringing developmental fairness to bear on the climate change agenda". Provision for the principle of climate justice provides the opportunity to realise this. 
 
4.  Most worryingly, the Government’s recent decision to extend the one year deadline to produce a national mitigation plan to two years gets them ‘off the hook’. The last national climate change strategy expired in 2012 and now we are told that we may have to wait until 2017 for its replacement and before the next Government start to take climate action.  This is not good enough!  Nor does it bode well for Ireland’s commitment to take the necessary steps at the vital UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.  
 
This is a critical moment to put Ireland on the path to a sustainable future.   Many of us have been campaigning for this moment since 2008.  We can’t let it end in disappointment.  

For campaigners in Northern Ireland, we will be in contact in March detailing how we can together help push climate change further up the political agenda at Stormont.

 

Drop in the Ocean? Ireland and Climate Change Trailer

On February 23, we will be releasing our documentary 'Drop in the Ocean? Ireland and Climate Change.' We've interviewed some of Ireland’s leading environmental scientists, writers and activists and asked them where Ireland fits in the global climate change picture. How is  climate change affecting Ireland and what impacts will it have if carbon emissions remain unchecked? How do we contribute to it? And what role can Ireland play if we are to become part of the solution?

 

Read more:

 
January 12, 2015

Building long-term support for people in Haiti

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th 2010 was not the most powerful earthquake of recent years but in terms of fatalities no similar event comes close to matching its devastating impact.
 
Earthquakes rarely result in mass casualties. Although earthquakes themselves are reasonably common, only a handful over the last decade have resulted in widespread loss of life.
 
In 2010 there were approximately 20 earthquakes around the world at least as powerful as the one that struck Haiti, the majority of which resulted in no fatalities at all.
 
So why did approximately 250,000 people die in Haiti on January 12th?
 
The answer lies in the old adage: earthquakes don’t kill people, falling buildings do.
 
Earthquakes may be natural occurrences but the fact is that they do not affect all people equally. Haiti was an example of the sad truth about earthquakes: the poorer you are, the more likely you are to die.
 
Low quality buildings were the principle cause of death in Haiti five years ago. When the earth shook, the buildings simply collapsed on top of people.
 
villa rosa haiti
Villa Rosa in Port au Prince, Haiti, a densely populated area where one third of houses were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair by the January 2010 earthquake (Photo: Eoghan Rice)
 
People in Haiti all tell tragic stories of friends or family members killed by collapsing schools, shops or houses. Many people going about their day simply didn’t stand a chance.
 
In responding to the earthquake, one of Trócaire’s principle concerns was ensuring that the houses we built could withstand similar earthquakes in the future. Thanks to support from people in Ireland, we have been able to provide earthquake-resistant houses to 10,889 people in Haiti.
 
In total, our programmes in Haiti have benefited 95,711 people.
 
Our programmes have focused on both short-term relief and long-term development. As well as providing shelter, food and medicine in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, we have funded education, housing and training programmes that will benefit people in the long-term.
 
Crucially, our programmes have been carried out in partnership with local communities, creating 3,000 jobs for Haitians in both the agricultural and construction industries. The houses we have funded were all built using 100% local materials and workers.
 
saul darbouze outside old shack and new home
Saul Darbouze outside the shack he lived in for 11 months after the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Saul has since moved into a new home(right), constructed using money donated to Trócaire (Photo: Eoghan Rice)
 
While the need for housing was the most obvious and pressing concern in Haiti following the earthquake, our response also focused on issues that often get forgotten in the aftermath of a major emergency.
 
For example, birth certificates and official identification forms were destroyed in the earthquake, leaving many people unable to access certain services. We successfully obtained new official documents for 7,185 people.
 
Likewise, trauma can be a major issue for people that can have long-term implications. We funded trauma counselling for 20,000 people, helping them to cope with and move on from the pain of January 12th, 2010.
 
None of this work would be possible without the support of people in Ireland, who rallied behind the Haitian people and supported our response efforts in huge numbers.
 
That support has had a big impact in rebuilding lives and protecting against future disasters.
 
January 06, 2015

Working for peace in Northern Kenya

Trócaire's Michelle Hoctor writes about Father Patrick Devine, a Trócaire partner working on conflict issues in Northern Kenya.

Roscommon-born Fr Patrick Devine has had many profound experiences during his 25 years working in Africa as a priest with the Society of African Missions. This includes development work in remote areas of Northern Kenya (a region two and a half times the size of Ireland) and teaching about conflict-related issues.  

Honoured in 2014 by Roscommon County Council for his peacekeeping work, Fr Devine says "Our work is not about a quick fix, we have put our hands to the plough for the long haul to secure enduring peace."

Northern Kenya, which is home to Fr Devine, has been seriously impacted by generations of violence.

Millions of people are suffering from the impact of local, inter-ethnic conflicts.  These conflicts within communities have been caused by all kinds of issues, ranging from a scarcity of natural resources to differences in peoples’ cultures to neglect by the state to ease of access to small fire arms.  "Famine," Fr Devine says, "is never further than two weeks away."

He adds: "In conflict environments where people are killed, maimed and displaced, social and religious values such as peace, justice and truth cannot take deep root; people cannot live normal lives or experience true peace.” 

Father Patrick Devine

Fr Patrick Devine on a recent visit to the Edward M Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

In 2009, Fr Devine established the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation which is supported by Trócaire.  

The work of the Centre, which includes people of all faiths, has been very positive. It engages with community leaders and others around the root causes of local problems and journeys with them to resolve their issues with the aim of coming to a permanent and positive peace. Its work has been acknowledged not just in Kenya, but internationally.

In 2013, Fr Devine received the prestigious International Caring Award in Washington DC. Previous recipients of this accolade include the Dalai Lama.

"Positive peace," says Fr Devine, "is all about people seeing the benefits on all sides."

The need to manage tensions and disputes was particularly evident during the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya.

After the 2013 elections in Kenya, the Centre saw the success of its work in preventing post-election violence.  The Centre worked with government, civic and religious institutions to achieve this outcome – “the benefits of which were incalculable,” according to Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire. 

The Shalom Centre continues to work with individuals, groups and ethnic communities to examine the root causes of conflict through education. It aims to offer solutions through providing peace-building skills and problem-solving workshops.

The Centre has trained over 120 key opinion leaders from the different ethnic groups on the techniques necessary for conflict prevention.   

While continuing its programme - and also research - into the conflicts in Eastern Africa, the Shalom Centre also provides school building materials and solar lighting, underlining the importance of education in the road map to peace.  

These schools (because of their solar lights) also double up as evening community centres, giving people the opportunity to come together in a neighbourly way to discuss issues of concern or local needs. 

"There is no conflict group that doesn't want a better future for themselves and for their children,” concludes Fr Devine.

Visit the Shalom Centre website to find out more about its work

December 22, 2014

10 years after the Asian tsunami

People were beginning to wind down their Christmas celebrations when everything changed forever. 
 
It was St Stephen’s Day, 2004, and across Asia millions of people were about to be hit by the most powerful tsunami ever recorded. 
 
Over a quarter of a million people were killed and a further 1.5 million were left homeless. The death toll was spread over 14 countries – from Kenya to Malaysia – but the worst of the impact was felt in Indonesia, where over half the fatalities were recorded. 
 
Trócaire immediately launched an appeal to support the emergency response of Caritas, the network of humanitarian agencies of which Trócaire is a member. 
 
Donations from Ireland made an incredible difference to the lives of people affected.
 
Caritas Secretary General Michel Roy recently noted, “the waves of the tsunami took away the lives of so many, but an unprecedented wave of solidarity never known in humanitarian history unrolled on the suffering of the people.” 
 
Over one million people were provided by emergency assistance through the joint Caritas response. 
 
In the affected countries, the Caritas confederation:
 
  • Built over 12,000 temporary shelters and almost 33,000 permanent ones to help build rebuild their homes;
  • Gave livelihood asset replacement (fishing boats, engines, nets, etc.) and vocational training to 55,000 households in India and Sri Lanka and 31,000 people in Indonesia;
  • Gave over 700,000 people psychosocial support in Indonesia and Sri Lanka; 
  • In Indonesia completed 350 infrastructure projects such as schools, clinics, roads, and markets.
 
tsunami 2004 indonesia
 
tsunami 2004 indonesia
Scenes from the air of the devastation caused by the tsunami along the west of Aceh province, Indonesia. Photos: Noel Gavin, January 2005
 
The tsunami of 2004 was the worst disaster to hit the region, but there have been several smaller, but also disastrous, emergencies since. 
 
Most recently, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people. 
 
Trócaire continues to work with partners to respond to emergencies in the region, while at the same time working with communities to defend themselves against storms and other disasters. 
 
Globally, only one in ten of the people exposed to natural hazards live in poor countries, but they account for more than half of total deaths. Poverty equals vulnerability. 
 
Ten years on, the images of the 2004 tsunami feel more recent than they are. Such was the magnitude of the disaster that those images will live on in memories for many years to come. 
 
So will the generosity of people all over the world, including Ireland, whose wave of solidarity helped to ease the suffering. 

December 22, 2014

How your donations made a difference in 2014

By Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director
 
2014 was a year that saw people in Ireland deliver emergency aid to people caught in conflict, vital healthcare to those at risk of a deadly virus, and ongoing support to the poorest people in the world. 
 
As January began, the clean-up operation from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was underway. Over 6,000 people died and more than four million were left homeless by the force of the storm. 
 
People in Ireland responded to our request for extra support to respond. Our emergency appeal has helped us reach 300,000 in the Philippines with aid. 
 
Our Lenten campaign this year focused on efforts to combat drought in Malawi by providing safe, clean drinking water to communities. 
 
We told you the story of Enestina, a young girl living in a rural area of Malawi that suffers from almost constant drought. Enestina’s story of how she spends much of her day travelling to a local river to collect water struck a chord with people in Ireland. 
 
enestina lent 2014 malawi
Enestina (9), at school in Malawi, 2014. Photo: Jeannie O'Brien
 
Thanks to the generosity of people during the Lenten period, we will be able to provide safe water to Enestina and many communities like hers. 
 
We paused during Lent to remember the victims of the Rwandan genocide, the twentieth anniversary of which fell in February. The Rwandan genocide was one of the darkest chapters in recent human history. Up to one million people were killed over 100 days in 1994 as the country imploded. 
 
The horrors of the genocide are well known, but to mark the anniversary we brought you the stories of reconciliation to show how Rwanda has moved on. Seeing how people once torn apart can forgive and seek forgiveness is truly inspiring. Trócaire is proud to have played a role in this process through our support of reconciliation programmes. 
 
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Photo: Elena Hermosa
 
The rebirth of Rwanda after such horrors provides hope that current conflicts will one day be put aside and today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s partners. The Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered enormously as a result of the inability of political leaders to build a peaceful future. 
 
In June we brought our partners, Breaking The Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers who now campaign for peace, to Ireland. Their photo exhibition, which attracted thousands of visitors in Dublin’s Temple Bar, was a powerful insight into how military occupation dehumanises both the occupied and the occupier. 
 
The importance of Breaking The Silence’s call for a just peace based on mutual dignity and respect was emphasised just weeks later when conflict broke out once more between Gaza and Israel. Over 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed in what was the third outbreak of serious violence in just six years. 
 
Breaking the Silence Photo Exhibition at the Gallery of Photography, June 2014
Breaking the Silence photo exhibition at the Gallery of Photography, Dublin in June 2014. Photo: Alan Whelan
 
Trócaire supported the supply of emergency aid in Gaza and also campaigned for an end to the violence. We held a vigil in Dublin city centre to call for an immediate end to the violence and also a fundamental reshaping of relations between Israel and the Palestinian people. 
 
The cyclical conflict is being driven by underlying issues, including the blockade on Gaza, the military occupation of much of the West Bank and the continued growth in illegal Israeli settlements. Until these issues are tackled, the violence will sadly continue. 
 
Gaza and Israel are not the only regions of the Middle East to experience conflict. The war in Syria rages on, with almost 10 million people now displaced. The shocking reality of life in Syria was brought home to us by a visit to Ireland from Bishop Audo, Bishop of Aleppo. 
 
Bishop Audo visited Ireland for one week and met with political and religious leaders, as well as speaking at some public events. The Bishop spoke about the impact of this war on the ordinary people of Syria and the urgent need for political action to bring it to a close and to secure a lasting peace. 
 
Urgent political action was also being called for in September when world leaders gathered in New York at the UN Climate Conference. Trócaire launched a new report – ‘Feeling The Heat’ – to coincide with the summit and to press home the damage climate change is having on the communities we work with. 
 
We were delighted to produce 'Glás', a new parish resource about the issue of climate change. Glás aims to complement the Irish Bishops' 'The Cry of the Earth' pastoral letter on climate change, which they launched in Maynooth in autumn.
 
Such is the devastation being caused by climate change in the developing world, Trócaire has committed to making this issue our main focus. Every day we speak with partners overseas about the fall-out of climate change – be it through floods, droughts, hunger or storms. 
 
In solidarity with communities in the developing world, we are calling on Ireland and other developed nations to urgently reduce carbon emissions before the impacts of climate change worsen further.  
 
In October the world’s attention shifted to West Africa and the Ebola outbreak. I visited Sierra Leone to help our team there build a response to the outbreak. I was struck by the bravery of our partner organisations, who tirelessly worked in affected communities to attempt to limit the spread of the virus and offer support to people affected. 
 
Eamonn Meehan in Sierra Leone with Caritas Partners
Éamonn Meehan in Sierra Leone with Caritas Partners
 
The anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan was marked in November, although a bigger concern was the potential impact of Typhoon Hagupit, which threatened to strike the Philippines with the ferocity of its predecessor. 
 
Trócaire was ready to launch a major emergency response but, thankfully, the impact of the typhoon was less than expected and damage was minor. It was, however, another reminder of how vulnerable people in the Philippines, and throughout the developing world, are to extreme weather. 
 
Helping to protect communities from the impacts of disaster was one of our Trócaire Gifts this Christmas. Supporters all over Ireland are getting behind our Christmas campaign, which will help us to continue our work well into 2015 and beyond – making a difference and supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the world. 
 
On behalf of the partners and communities we work with, I would like to thank all those who support our work - particularly our committed givers - for your continued support, and wish you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. 
 
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