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History of Trócaire

Trócaire was established by the Bishops of Ireland in 1973 as a way for Irish people to donate to development and emergency relief overseas.

Upon its establishment, Trócaire was given a dual mandate: to support the most vulnerable people in the developing world, while also raising awareness of development at home in Ireland.

Throughout its history Trócaire has brought humanitarian relief and assistance to people caught in some of the worst conflicts or hit by natural disasters across the globe. It has also established long-term development programmes in these regions and others affected by poverty, inequality and human rights violations. 

Below is a timeline of some of the organisation's key achievements

2010s & 2000s

Guatemala

Trócaire in Guatemala has long supported the victims of the 36-years-long internal armed conflict in their fight for justice. The conflict ended in 1996.

ixil mayans at rios montt trial

Indigenous women at the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in 2013.

Over the years we have worked closely with several partners to persecute those responsible for the genocide against the indigenous peoples, where women were the main victims. 

In 2013, former de facto president Efraín Ríos Montt was taken to court, persecuted and convicted to 80 years in prison for genocide against the Ixil people and crimes against humanity.

It took 13 years to bring him in front of a judge, a process in which 1600 victims participated. Even though the sentence is under appeal, it is the first time that such a prominent military leader, the master mind of some of the worst human right violation in Guatemala, is taken to a tribunal. 

More recently, in 2016, Trócaire and its partner set another international example with the Sepur Zarco case, when for the first time in history sexual crimes linked to an armed conflict have been judged by a national court. 

The two former military officers on trial received sentences of 120 and 240 years in prison for crimes against humanity, sexual violence and slavery, the killing of a woman and her two children and the forced disappearance of seven of the victims’ husbands. The process started in 2010 when the victims decided to take a bold step despite all the fear and harm inflicted on them. 

Trócaire partners support these victims through the whole court processes, at a legal level but also providing psychosocial support to overcome the pain and the trauma. For the most controversial trial, they also provide safety measures to protect the victims.

Trócaire keeps supporting many other cases in Guatemalan courts and abroad to bring justice to the victims of the conflicts, fight impunity and avoid de oblivion of the victim’s suffering.

Sierra Leone

In 2014/2015, we responded to the Ebola crisis, providing aid to those in quarantine areas and information campaigns on how to stop the spread of the virus. Besides the psycho-social impact of the crisis on the community, people affected by the crisis find it very difficult to make a living.  

Zainab Sierra Leone

Zainab from the Kambia District of Sierra Leone lost her husband and sister to Ebola and is taking care of her sister’s three orphaned children, in addition to her own children. She received seeds, tools and support from Trócaire and its partners to rebuild her livelhood after Ebola.

Trócaire is now working with communities to rebuild their livelihoods and also to provide counselling to people whose lives were destroyed by Ebola.

Major Climate Justice Conference

In July 2015, Trócaire held a major conference, Meeting the Challenges of Climate Justice: From Evidence to Action, in conjunction with Maynooth University and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth to highlight the climate change crisis.

The event featured Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Chair of The Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice, Professor Jean Pascal Van Ypersele, ‎Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, one of the world’s most influential campaigning websites on climate change. The conference trended globally on Twitter under the hashtag #climatejustice2015.

Highlights from the conference:

Nepal

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on April 25th 2015, followed by a series of major aftershocks and tremors. More than 8 million people were affected, with over 190,000 homes destroyed and over 175,000 more severely damaged. Trócaire worked with its Caritas partners to deliver aid to 220,000 people in seven of the most affected districts. 

Trócaire's Conor O'Loughlin in Nepal

Trócaire's Conor O'Loughlin distributing shelter in a community badly affected by the earthquake in Nepal, April 2015

War in Syria and Typhoon in the Philippines

Trócaire launched two major emergency public appeals in 2013, one to respond to conflict in Syria and the second to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, in the Philippines. By June 2013, a total of 8.3 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, 1.6 million of whom had fled to neighbouring countries. Over 6,000 people were killed and over four million were left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm to ever have made landfall. 

These appeals were supported by a nationwide shared church collection that took place in November 2013 and raised €5.3m was raised for Trócaire’s work in both regions.

Trócaire reached over 300,000 people in the Philippines with food, water and shelter. In Syria Trócaire works with local partners to provide food, shelter, clean water and other basic needs for women, children and men forced to flee their homes. Over 93,000 Syrian refugees have benefited from this support. Sadly this crisis continues to deteriorate rapidly. 

Argie and Julie Anne outside Trocaire funded house in Tacloban

Argie and Julie Anne outside Trócaire funded house in Tacloban. Photo: Peter O'Doherty, November 2014

West Bank

In 2012, Trócaire called for the Irish government and European Union to ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Despite repeated criticisms of the illegal settlements, both the Irish government and EU continued to facilitate the growth of settlements through trade. Trócaire called for settlement goods to be banned in order to halt the continued illegal construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. 

WATCH: 'Stolen Land' tells the story of a Palestinian family whose land was illegally seized by the army and police.

East Africa

A drought in East Africa in 2011 brought hunger and famine to millions of people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia affected. An emergency appeal resulted in over €9m in public donations to Trócaire. Almost 20 years after first visiting Somalia, Mary Robinson returned to visit Trócaire’s relief projects. Also in 2011 South Sudan became an independent state following a referendum which sought to end decades of conflict. Ongoing fighting in the border area of Southern Kordofan, however, provoked a humanitarian emergency. Trócaire funded a hospital in Southern Kordofan and was one of the only agencies to be able to get aid into the region.

Mary Robinson Somalia

Mary Robinson, Trócaire staff, mothers and children at Trócaire's Dollow Health Centre, Somalia. Photo: Jennifer O'Gorman, July 2011

Haiti

In 2010, Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake which killed over 250,000 people and left 1.2 million homeless. Irish people responded by donating €7.5m to Trócaire, funding an emergency response which brought food to 1.5m people, healthcare to 1m and shelter to 160,000. Just six months later, Trócaire launched a second emergency appeal for victims of flooding in Pakistan, which left 20 million people facing homelessness.

Asian tsunami

The Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 killed over 250,000 people. Trócaire launched a public appeal and over the course of one month receives €27m in public donations, the largest response to any Trócaire appeal in the organisation’s history.

1990s

North Korea

In May 1997 Trócaire launched an appeal to help an estimated five million people facing famine in North Korea. Through its links with Caritas, Trócaire was one of the few Western NGOs with access to North Korea. In September 1997 Trócaire ran a newspaper advertisement under the headline 'Let them starve - they're only communists'.

The Irish public donated over £4m to Trócaire's North Korea appeal, the largest response of any European country.

Rwanda

Between April and July 1994, 800,000 people were killed in an ethnic genocide in Rwanda. With little hope of outside intervention, Trócaire took out newspaper advertisements to raise awareness of the unfolding crisis. At a news conference in April 1994, Trócaire Director Justin Kilcullen criticised the West for its attitude towards Rwanda and its treatment of Africa from both an economic and political perspective. Trócaire launched an appeal for £1m to fund its emergency response to the genocide.

WATCH our documentary: Let the Devil Sleep: Rwanda 20 Years After Genocide

Somalia

In 1992, Somalia faced a devastating humanitarian crisis – its government and national institutions had collapsed and there were no local NGOs to provide help. Trócaire established a programme in the Gedo region of western Somalia, which was visited by President of Ireland Mary Robinson. The President’s visit, the first by any head of State, focused international attention on the crisis. Throughout the long conflict which followed, Trócaire was one of the few international NGOs to remain in Somalia, operating health clinics for hundreds of thousands of people in an area with no other hospitals or health facilities. Trócaire remains in Somalia to this day, providing life-saving care.

1980s

Ethiopia

In 1984, Trócaire launched its Africa Appeal in response to the devastating famine in Ethiopia. The appeal generated a huge response from the Irish public. As a result, Trócaire established a major relief programme that provided assistance across seven famine affected countries.

El Salvador

In 1979, Trócaire began supporting the El Salvador Human Rights Commission, established by Archbishop Oscar Romero and others in response to the killing of 8,000 people. The following year, on 28 March 1980, Romero was assassinated. Trócaire Chairman Bishop Eamonn Casey attended the funeral and narrowly escaped injury or death when the army opened fire on mourners. Archbishop Romero’s murder triggered a bloody civil war that began one of the longest and most dangerous emergency relief programmes in Trócaire’s history. Before the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in 1992 more than 180 of Trócaire’s partners had died or been murdered.

Oscar Romero memorial

Memorial to Oscar Romero and others killed in El Salvador

1970s

South Africa

“South Africans have a long association with Trócaire, who have not only been staunch opponents of apartheid but have also initiated and supported projects within South Africa since 1977. The new and democratic South Africa shares the commitments of Trócaire, and indeed the people of Ireland, to the alleviation of poverty and the development of a human rights culture. - Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, speaking in 1998

Trócaire was the first Irish NGO to become involved in the struggle against the apartheid system in South Africa, a struggle which lasted almost two decades. Trócaire’s then Chairman, Bishop Eamonn Casey, was an outspoken critic of apartheid and Trócaire regularly challenged the Irish people and government to condemn it.

As well as campaigning on the national and international stage, Trócaire funded grass roots projects with schools, youth organisations and trade unions. It also raised awareness of injustices in South Africa by bringing prominent speakers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to Ireland.

nelson mandela trocaire tribute

Cambodia

In the last year of the decade, 1979, members of Trócaire flew to Cambodia on the first relief plane to land in Phnom Penh since the Khmer Rouge emptied the city. Working with partners on the ground, it began to set up programmes to respond to the unprecedented tragedy.

Vietnam

In 1976, following the devastation of the war in Vietnam, 17 European and North American agencies came together to coordinate support for the Vietnamese people. Trócaire was the lead agency of this programme for a decade and successfully campaigned to get the European Economic Community (now the EU) to lift its aid embargo on the country.

Chile

A military coup in 1974 put General Augusto Pinochet in power in Chile. His brutal reign led to thousands of murders and ‘disappearances’ across the country. Trócaire responded to an appeal from the Archdiocese of Santiago to help victims of human rights abuses. This response was to be a defining moment in furthering the organisation’s commitment to human rights work. The intervention in Chile also leads to Trócaire expanding its work in Latin America. Only one year after its establishment, Trócaire was already involved in programming in 42 countries.

Read full text of the Bishops of Ireland Pastoral Letter which established Trócaire in 1973 

Trócaire's Impact