The recent theft of €4 million from the overseas aid given to Uganda, by Ireland, should lead to a rethinking of the Irish foreign aid programme. Despite Ireland’s serious economic woes, it has still managed to fund an aid programme of €636 million in 2011. Uganda receives €33 million in aid from Ireland each year, but was also able to recently purchase six jet fighters for its air force. Ireland by contrast cannot afford military jet fighters and in fact has none at all.
So what else could Ireland do with its €636 million yearly aid budget. Well what about buying one of these:
Yes it’s an aircraft carrier. Let me explain.
This carrier is known as an amphibious assault ship. It is used for landing an army from the ocean on to hostile shores. Landing craft boats can actually dock inside the carrier to load-up with tanks and trucks, while helicopters can lift off from its deck. There is also a hanger below for more planes and helicopters. These ships cost €590 million, which is less than our annual aid budget. The helicopters, planes and running costs would all add extra cost though. Click the links here and here for more information on these amazingly useful ships.
Here is a cut away view to show its internal harbour and vehicle carrying capability. Click to enlarge.
So while this ship is designed to invade hostile lands. It is also an extremely useful type of ship for offering emergency assistance to war torn or storm ravaged countries. Emergency supplies can easily be unloaded and brought ashore independently of whether working docks are in place. Helicopters can unload supplies further inland if roads are unusable. All the while a defence capability is available if the affected area is politically unstable e.g. Somalia. These ships have already been used for emergency relief efforts in many parts of the world, most recently after the tsunami hit Japan. However these ships would be even more capable if they were retrofitted specifically for emergency relief operations. The proposed Irish ship could be one such boat.
Apart from the obvious aid it would bring to people in emergencies abroad, this plan would also have many advantages for Ireland itself. Some of these would be:
1. Less risk of fraud. The aid budget used for this ship and assets would be under the control of the Irish Governments with less risk of fraud.
2. Use at home. The ship would be available for use in emergencies in Ireland itself, e.g. winter flooding or maritime disasters.
3. Awareness. The ship would be a continual reminder of Ireland’s aid to foreign lands. By either its huge impressive bulk at a home harbour or on our televisions screens helping those abroad. It would be a boost for the morale of the Irish people.
4. Marketing. It would represent a great marketing tool for a small country like Ireland, and would counter the gloomy PIIGS stereotypes abroad. It could be announced as part of next years ‘The Gathering‘ celebration of the Irish abroad, and used as a lasting reminder of it.
5. Employment. The manning of the ship and associated disaster relief contingent on board her, would create much needed employment at home for the full time crew and nurture skills for any crew who were part time/ volunteers.
I think this is worth considering and it would only require part of our yearly aid budget as the cost of the ship could be spread over many years. As this ship would only provide emergency relief we would still need to fund long term aid programmes.
The running costs of the ship and support apparatus would need careful consideration. We could welcome donations and volunteers from the public and even the rest of the European Union to keep costs down.
So first things first, any ideas on the name of such an Irish ship?
And one last view of these ships, this one is from inside the internal dock/ harbour.