Varadkar says it's time for Ireland to increase spending on international development

Leo Varadkar says the percentage the Government donates annually has fallen

Varadkar says it's time for Ireland to increase spending on international development

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Rollingnews.ie

Ireland needs to start spending more on international aid, according to the Taoiseach.

The UN sets an aid target of 0.7% of donors' national income, but Ireland is substantially below that.

Leo Varadkar has suggested it is something that we lost sight of during the economic crisis.

He observed: "Ireland has fallen back quite a lot, first because of the recession, and secondly - more recently - because of a very fast growing economy.

"Our contribution to international development is now only about 0.3% of our GNP (gross national product) or GNI* (gross national income), whichever you'd prefer to use. We had been around 0.58% at one stage."

The Taoiseach added that the Government will bring a renewed focus on the issue in 2018.

He said: "The time has come I think for Ireland as a country to start increasing our spending on international development again.

"That'll be part of our plans for Ireland's contribution to the world, and also Ireland's foreign policy. We'd hope by the middle of the year to be able to set out a schedule as to how that can be done in the years ahead."

Irish Aid figures show Ireland’s total overseas development assistance amounted to €724 million in 2016, with a majority spent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Reporting by Sean Defoe and Stephen McNeice