Trócaire’s CEO reflects on a year of both joy and sadness, with reason for hope
I would like to start my yearly reflection with a message of goodwill to all of our supporters. With the daily news cycle regularly dominated by the rise of populist politics and the threat of climate catastrophes, we are so often confronted by messages of fear and anger. However, it is important to remember that there is still reason and great need for hope, joy and love.
People living in the communities where Trócaire works face exceptional challenges. These innocent people are confronted by the harsh realities of conflict, war, hunger, climate change, gender discrimination and a real threat to their fundamental human rights. But, with your help, Trócaire is working to support them.
Pope Francis recently denounced the “globalisation of indifference”. He said: “Loving our neighbour means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.”
Trócaire has strived to put these words and sentiments into action and, thanks to your support over the past year, we have helped to improve the lives of 2.9 million people in 27 of the world’s poorest countries.
As an organisation, we suffered a personal loss with the tragic passing of the late and great Sally O’Neill. Sally was the heartbeat of Trócaire for almost 40 years and she built the foundations of Trócaire.
Sally worked in Central America at a time when three civil wars were being fought. She oversaw humanitarian aid to more than two million refugees and led delegations of politicians and bishops so they could see the suffering, translating for Saint Oscar Romero six weeks before he was murdered by a right-wing death squad.
Sally embodied our values and through her courage and commitment to human rights and human dignity touched the lives of so many people. Our aim is to ensure her spirit lives on through our work and the brave work of our partners, who are being harassed, arrested, intimidated and even murdered as a result of them standing up to defend their rights.
Just this month seven men were jailed in Honduras for their parts in the murder of human rights defender Berta Cáceres, who was shot dead in 2016 after a long battle to stop construction of an internationally financed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River.
Guatemalan activist Abelino Chub Caal was finally released from prison last April after being wrongfully imprisoned for over two years while this year’s Trócaire Lenten Campaign supported vulnerable families whose land, security and hope is under threat.
We launched our ‘Making a Killing’ report in March, which highlighted how corporate greed is leading to land being taken, forests cut down and rivers poisoned.
These actions – in addition to events such as the catastrophic fires blazing throughout the Amazon forest – reinforce the need for a legally binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights to hold companies accountable for human-rights abuses.
The recent US policy shift on Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, which remain illegal under international law, was another worrying development as Palestinians suffer from apartheid. Trócaire has maintained its support for Senator Frances Black’s Occupied Territories Bill, which has now passed the seventh stage of the Dáil, and would make it illegal to import goods into Ireland from such settlements.
Ireland’s sluggish reaction to the alarming warnings from the scientific community of the devastating effects of climate change has been frustrating. We are the third highest emitters of carbon in the EU and towards the bottom of the table for positive action. The astonishing impact of climate change is being felt by the people in countries where we work.
The Climate Emergency Measures Bill – which would end fossil fuel exploration – was blocked by the Government with their use of a technical measure called a ‘money message’ to block the Bill, despite the fact that a majority of TDs have twice voted in support of it.
However, it has been an inspiring year of activism on the streets, with young people and adults alike staging school strikes, protests and actions. This year feels like a watershed moment for awareness on climate change, and I was delighted to march on the streets in September with other Trócaire colleagues and thousands of school strikers.
The effects of climate change have played a huge part in the desperate migration efforts being made by thousands of the world’s poorest people.
Back in June, on the same day that the European Court of Human Rights denied 42 migrants on board the Sea-Watch ship permission to land, the shocking photograph of the father and daughter who drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande provided stark reminders of the extent of human desperation on two different borders.
The migration crisis has been worsened by conflict in many places where we work and, in these countries, 90 million people have lived through constant conflict since they were born.
Our Christmas campaign has highlighted how families fleeing conflict urgently need food, shelter and heathcare. As ever, Trócaire would not be able to help these millions of people without the essential, compassionate and generous support of the Irish public.
In the spirit of hope, I would like to remember that 25 years ago Trócaire began working in a country that was torn apart, but today people in Rwanda are looking to a brighter future. This Christmas, we must all remember that hate and division benefits no-one.
To close on a note of positivity, we are entering the ‘decade of delivery’ for the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to be met by 2030.
Meeting these global goals requires a collective effort – we can all play our part to support a movement that puts the furthest behind first. You can help in many ways, including your essential and much-appreciated support for Trócaire.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.