Dáil Éireann - Volume 243 - 05 December, 1969
Committee on Finance. - Vote 46—International Co-operation.
Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Hillery) Patrick J. Hillery
Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Hillery): I move:
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £35,500 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st March, 1970, for contributions to the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Legal Bodies and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and for other expenses in connection therewith.
The additional sums are required for:
(1) a special contribution of $25,000 to UNICEF in respect of emergency relief and rehabilitation of women and children in war-affected areas of Nigeria, and
(2) a contribution of £25,000 to UNICEF towards the expenses of chartering a ship for the transport of relief supplies and equipment for the humanitarian assistance of the victims of the Nigerian conflict.
Deputies are only too well aware of the desperate plight of the victims of the Nigerian conflict. The suffering of the  civilian population as a result of widespread famine and disease over the last two years has been brought home to us all by the sad pictures of emaciated men and women and skeleton-like children which have been shown to us by the relief organisations and on television and in the press. The Nigerian tragedy has caused civilian suffering on a scale unknown for a long time, and in all this suffering the children have been the greatest victims.
I have already told the Dáil on 20th November the Government's proposals for providing humanitarian assistance for the victims of the Nigerian conflict in the current financial year. As I stated at that time, I am considering further ways in which we can help and I shall inform the Dáil of what we propose, as soon as we have finalised our plans. In moving this supplementary estimate I intend to confine my remarks to the question of providing assistance out of public funds through the United Nations Children's Fund.
Since January, 1968, UNICEF has been providing emergency aid for the victims on both sides of the Nigerian conflict. The report of the 1969 session of the executive board of UNICEF last May states that the particular concern of UNICEF in the Nigerian relief crisis has been to try to see to it that adequate stocks of food suitable for children are available for forwarding to the relief area; to strengthen attention in the over-all relief effort given to the care of children and the cure and prevention of child starvation and malnutrition; to supply drugs particularly required for children and to contribute to transport requirements. At that session, the board allocated an additional $1.6 million for the Nigerian emergency programme of which $1 million was to be used for the continuation of emergency aid—largely for drugs and medical supplies—and the balance to start rehabilitation of health and education services.
By the end of November, 1969, UNICEF had shipped well over 100 million pounds weight of food, drugs and other supplies. UNICEF had received donations and pledges for the Nigerian emergency aid programme valued at over $18 million, mostly in  kind, from governmental sources and UNICEF itself had allocated a total of almost $3½ million to cover the cost of food, drugs, freight and operating expenses of the programme. These supplies have been transported and distributed for the most part either through the Red Cross or through the Catholic and Protestant church groups on both sides of the fighting line. In addition UNICEF is now engaged in rehabilitation programmes in the field of health and education in several of the disturbed areas in the wake of the war.
The Government are particularly concerned as regards the suffering of the children. There have been recent reports of grave deterioration in the physical condition of the children and their mothers inside the Biafran enclave. In the other disturbed areas we understand that there is still grave malnutrition, including pockets of famine, and there are many places where rehabilitation proper has yet to begin. In addition, there are constant threats to the survival of the child population—kwashiorkor, marasmus, measles, tuberculosis and the possible resurgence of yellow fever and smallpox on an epidemic scale. It is in this most vital field that UNICEF is doing such excellent work, on both sides, and it is to help UNICEF in this work that the Government propose allocating the $25,000 for which I am asking the approval of the Dáil. This is a relatively small contribution but we would hope in the next financial year to consider further ways for helping the UNICEF programmes for Nigerian relief and rehabilitation as necessary.
The second part of the Government's proposed contribution to UNICEF for Nigerian relief aid is a contribution specifically intended to assist relief transport requirements. As a result of a charter signed last month between UNICEF and Africa Concern Ltd., and a subsequent agreement reached between UNICEF and the Nigerian authorities, the relief ship Columcille is being placed by its owners Africa Concern Ltd. at the disposal of UNICEF for the shipment of bona fide relief supplies and equipment to  ports of the Nigerian seaboard or of nearby countries, or from such ports, for the relief of victims of the present conflict in Nigeria. The charter is to extend for a period of four months with an option for an additional two months if UNICEF so require. The Government propose paying UNICEF a sum of not more than £25,000 for the actual costs of the first four months of the charter. Both Africa Concern and UNICEF and also the Nigerian authorities will each make their own contribution to the costs of running the relief ship during the period of charter.
The main reason for our wishing to make this practical contribution to Nigerian relief has been the need since the ending of the co-ordinating role of the international committee of the Red Cross last June to provide adequate relief transport facilities in succession to the excellent system which the ICRC had established and put into operation. The shortage of financial resources of both the Nigerian National Commission for Rehabilitation and the Nigerian Red Cross have not made easy the building up of new transport and distribution facilities. As a result, although relief supplies are available —in fact the ICRC handed over large stocks of relief supplies to the Nigerian Red Cross on 30th September—due to insufficient transport the relief cannot reach some of the areas where it is most needed. It was to meet this need, that the Government initiated the discussions between Africa Concern and UNICEF about the Columcille. This vessel had previously transported relief along the Nigerian coast under a similar agreement for the ICRC and at that time the ship was found very suitable both because of the shallow draft of the ship itself and the able handling by the master and his crew. I hope that the Columcille's period of service under UNICEF will continue to be successful in bringing relief to the victims of the war in the disturbed area along the Nigerian coast, in the mid west, in the rivers and in the south east states.
Finally, I should point out that the Irish National Committee for UNICEF has long been active in supporting UNICEF's programmes in Nigeria  Biafra. To date the national committee has transferred £25,000 to UNICEF for this purpose, a sum generously contributed by the Irish people. I hope that the public, particularly in this Christmas month, will continue to support UNICEF through the national committee in the vital work that the organisation is performing both in Nigeria and in so many other parts of the world on behalf of, and for the benefit of children.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: This supplementary estimate is further practical proof of the genuine sympathy which is felt in this country for the sufferings which the people of Nigeria and Biafra, and especially the children, are undergoing. The efforts made by voluntary groups here to raise subscriptions and the contributions which have been forthcoming while this tragic and horrible war has been proceeding have probably been without parallel. I suppose the fact that so many of our people have worked as missionaries and teachers in those areas, the fact that for so long so many of our families have either had a representative or a member of a family or have had contact and association with families who have had people in those areas, has brought home in a practical way the problem and plight which has afflicted this unfortunate area of Nigeria and Biafra.
This of course is a topic in which, naturally, our emotions are aroused and our sympathies moved by the very serious sufferings which have affected the people concerned, and particularly children and mothers. On a number of occasions the question of aid and assistance has been discussed here and I regard the Minister's announcement of the channelling of aid through sources other than the International Red Cross as signifying a desirable change.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Hear, hear.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: I have always held the view that in a matter of this sort it is difficult for a country like this, remote from the scene in the physical sense, to make any major contribution or to suggest what might or might not be done. On the other hand, one of the  real problems in this regard has been the getting of supplies through. I have always had the view, from looking at the situation and trying to get as much information as is available, that the United Nations approach in this matter was far too legalistic and that the question of getting supplies through and channelling them only through the International Red Cross had practical defects. However altruistic or however high-minded the motives of that organisation and of those who work so zealously in furthering its aims and endeavouring to attain its objectives, nevertheless practical problems, because of the nature of the war and the refusal of the participants concerned to co-operate, prevented on a number of occasions supplies getting through. It is for that reason I welcome the suggestion to channel the assistance, or some of it, through bodies like Caritas Internationalis or the Catholic, Protestant and other church relief groups. At the same time there is an obligation on us here to express a view which is, I believe, widely held.
We have in the main endeavoured to get action in regard to the conflict in Nigeria and Biafra through the Organisation for African Unity. That, of course, is because of the reason I mentioned a moment ago. The United Nations decided that the most practical way of getting some action was through the Organisation for African Unity. Unfortunately, at this stage that does not seem to have achieved a great deal of success. For that reason I was interested recently to see the suggestion made that the Swiss Government would act as mediators in the matter. But I believe that, over and above the constructive efforts that we make either as a member of the United Nations Organisation or of any other international body of which we are members and in which our influence can be used, there is an obligation on us to express our condemnation of the principal arms suppliers to this area.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Hear, hear.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: I have always felt, and expressed the view before, that there are three principal suppliers: Britain and Russia, on the one hand,  and the French Government, on the other. When I see discussions and read speeches in other parliaments, particularly in the one nearest to us—I suppose anything we say or do so far as Russia is concerned is likely to have no influence—when I see concern expressed by the British Government over fighting elsewhere and criticism voiced in the British Parliament, I feel it has a hollow ring when we contrast that with the continued arms supplied by the British Government to the Federal Nigerian authorities. It is equally objectionable and equally reprehensible that the French Government should supply arms to Biafra.
This whole operation of relatively great powers supplying arms and equipment to relatively undeveloped and primitive areas and using this as an excuse for engaging in conflict is a matter which must be condemned. We have an obligation to express our detestation of and our opposition to the activities which those Governments have carried on and are carrying on. I share the view that has been expressed here on many occasions that in a matter of this sort agreement and negotiation is the only hope of solution, that war and conflict cannot solve the problems that are there. We have supported the application of the Geneva Conventions. Our efforts have been directed, as far as possible, towards relieving suffering and mitigating the hardship and misery for those involved, particularly the children.
This supplementary estimate will make a further contribution in that regard. A great number of people from very different walks of life in this country, many of whom could ill afford it, have contributed at functions organised to raise funds to bring additional succour and relief to those concerned. I want to support the appeal made by the Minister to bodies and organisations, particularly at the approach of Christmas, further to assist and support the voluntary efforts which are being made, as well as the efforts being made by the State through the Red Cross and other international organisations to help these people. We must  recognise and pay tribute to the wonderful work done by so many Irish people in Nigeria and Biafra. They are, of course, mainly missionaries and religious but in addition there are teachers and social and other humanitarian workers, such as medical workers, doctors and nurses and so on, and they all deserve the highest praise for their work and the self-sacrifice which has characterised them in this regard.
Compared with conditions in this area, and indeed in many other undeveloped areas in the world, this is a country which is largely developed and has considerable resources and a high standard of living. There is no doubt that the advertisements which have been published, particularly by the Red Cross and other authorities, depicting suffering children, have been a great help in raising relief. The most moving one is that which asks “Is one meal a day too much?”. That advertisement has moved many people to sympathy and has secured contributions from many quarters. This further effort, particularly in regard to making a contribution towards UNICEF, and also the contribution in respect of chartering the vessel Columcille, is another indication of our anxiety not merely to provide a measure of relief but also to ensure that steps will be taken to ensure that supplies will be delivered. The time has come for us to make it known to those concerned, within the ambit of the opportunities which offer, our strong disapproval and detestation of the reprehensible practice of supplying arms and equipment to the participants.
This whole matter is something which could be discussed at length. Many different types of solutions have been suggested, such as the recognition of Biafra as a separate State, but matters like that are really outside our immediate concern. Our immediate concern is to try to bring external supplies of arms and equipment to an end, to bring relief and succour as quickly as possible to those so much in need of it, particularly in Biafra but also in parts of Nigeria, and to use our influence and exert our efforts towards having the Geneva Conventions applied and practised and to have a humanitarian approach adopted by  the interests concerned. So far as we are concerned we are glad of this proposal and regard it as an indication of the support that there is not merely in this House, but outside it possibly to an even greater extent, that we have a genuine anxiety to secure peace and to make an effective contribution to assist the suffering people in these areas.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: On behalf of the Labour Party I should like to welcome wholeheartedly this supplementary estimate and to welcome also the tone and content of the Minister's brief. The brief shows a certain change of emphasis and an increased degree of concern about this matter in the Department of External Affairs. The Minister, with his usual modesty and out of regard for his predecessor, will probably deny the change of emphasis but I must say that I cannot help noting its existence. I served for a good many years in the Minister's Department and in my time I have prepared briefs and I think I know the difference between a brief which is simply patting the ball back and a brief expressing actual concern and work done. This brief, I am happy to say, appears to me to come within the second category. There has been real work going on here.
I welcome in particular the statement by the Minister when he said:
I am considering further ways in which we can help and I shall inform the Dáil of what we propose as soon as we have finalised our plans.
I should like to assure the Minister of full support from our side of the House for anything he may find it possible to do in this direction. We welcome, as I said, this contribution to UNICEF. We have a very high regard for the work that UNICEF is doing in the world, as most people have. However, we do not think that a single channel or a single set of channels is enough; we believe in diversification of the channels of relief so that needs may be met where they exist without being trammelled more than absolutely necessary by the political conditions of the place and time. UNICEF, for all its best endeavours,  which it certainly makes, is of course handicapped in certain ways. By the very fact that it is a United Nations organism it is under the constraints of international legalities and of pressures of member states in this matter. The view of most member states is that Nigeria is the unit and Biafra the rebel area and, therefore, that direct supplies into Biafra tend to be frowned upon in United Nations circles and therefore UNICEF may be under difficulties in these matters. I know there is a will to get round these difficulties. I discern from the Minister's brief that some ingenious ways have been found: these are worthy of praise. I still think, however, that further diversification is necessary and also a further effort to find out, on the spot, just what means of getting the relief to its destination are working and are likely to work and what kinds of flexibility can be introduced into the whole operation.
It is not enough just to vote money or to contribute money. The essential thing is that the relief which the money buys shall get through to the maximum number of people in most need. There are very great problems in relation to that. I think it is proper that the Minister's brief should be as it is but, necessarily, it understates some of these difficulties. Opposition Deputies can dot i's and cross t's which it would not be appropriate for the Minister to do.
There are two main areas involved here. The reference in the decorous language of the brief is to “the war-affected areas of Nigeria”. There are two main ones. One is the so-called Biafra enclave—that is, that extremely crowded area of the so-called “Ibo heartland” which must be one of the most densely-populated areas in the world at present. It was already thickly populated before this war. Its population has now vastly been swollen by refugees from territory now occupied by the Nigerian army.
In the areas of the old eastern region which have been occupied by Federal Nigerian troops there are other people in grave need. Some of them are Ibos left behind and some are other peoples in that area—Efik, Ibibio, Ijaw and  others. It is of no particular concern to us, of course, what is the ethnicicity of any given group: the important thing is that they are in need.
Looking at these two areas, we have to distinguish, I think, two sets of problems in reaching them with relief. As regards the area of the eastern region—possibly the problem is not exclusively an eastern region one but I think it is overwhelmingly mainly so— in that area which has been occupied, I cannot speak of these problems from first-hand experience. I tried to go there but it was not made possible for me to do that so that, as far as that area is concerned, the occupied area— I suppose, from a Lagos point of view, the liberated area—of the eastern region, I am obliged to rely on reports by other people.
Here, I do not wish to seek to inflame opinion against the Nigerian Government. I wish to speak with the greatest possible moderation on this subject. All the peoples of Nigeria are passing through a time of grave tribulation. We are concerned, in considering this supplementary estimate, immediately, at the moment, only with the problem of how effective our contribution can be. It is only in so far as the effectiveness of that contribution is concerned that we have to consider the conditions prevailing in each one of the two areas. It is a question of choosing whither we should channel most of our effort and through what channel it should go.
In relation to the areas of the east, occupied by Federal troops, there are many serious problems. There are enlightened people in the Nigerian Government and, I am sure, also in Nigerian local administration and even in the army who genuinely want relief supplies to reach all the people. Those people certainly exist and I think it proper to pay tribute to them. There are also people animated by quite different principles. There are, for example, in positions of power both in Lagos and in the local affected areas—people—Moslems, from the north—animated by the traditional idea of the Jihad of the Holy War. We know something about Holy Wars  in this island but the spirit of the Jihad retains a great deal of the primal ferocity there.
Organising relief under these conditions is sometimes a little like trying to channel supplies for the evicted and dispossessed Catholics of Belfast through an administration run by Mr. Paisley and Mr. Bunting: it presents difficulties of that kind. That is to say, it cannot get through. We know that terrible things have happened in certain parts—not all—of the areas of the eastern region occupied by troops of the central Government. In Calabar, I know from an unimpeachable authority which I cannot name here—the Minister may know it; evidently he is very well-advised in these matters—Federal troops went looking for Ibos and killed all the male Ibos over the age of 12. They also killed members of other ethnic groups found guilty, or suspected of, sheltering Ibos. These things happened.
One can see that under that administration at that time—I am happy to say that the man who did that was subsequently removed from office though for a different reason—under those conditions, or even under conditions perceptibly better but not radically different, relief supplies will not get through. I know, from reports from several parts of the occupied region, that the policy of the administration locally, unfortunately, appears to be that of the old adage, “Thou shalt not kill but need not strive officiously to keep alive” in relation to certain people. There is, therefore, grave doubt that relief distributed under arrangements made by the Nigerians themselves will reach its destination. The Minister may be able in his reply to say something that will allay those doubts of ours. If so, I hope he will be able to tell it to us because there is ground for such doubts, according to first-hand information from people who have visited the areas—not people sitting in Lagos. I am not blaming them for that; people have to sit there from time to time, but people who, perhaps because of difficulties imposed by the Nigerian Government have not been able to travel into areas occupied in the eastern region, cannot be a  primary source of information about these areas. If the Minister is able to give us first hand assessments by impartial people on whom he can count that these supplies are really getting through in this area then I, for one, will be very happy to hear it. It is very important that these reports should be first hand.
Here I should like to say with due respect to the relief agencies, the International Red Cross, UNICEF, and whatever, that their reports are deserving of being treated with proper respect, but they should also be looked at with a critical eye.
Mr. Desmond Mr. Desmond
Mr. Desmond: Hear, hear.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: There is, as I know from experience in several parts of Africa, a natural human tendency on the part of a relief agency to play its own trumpet just a little, to lay proper emphasis on the amount that is being done and not to look with the same degree of urgency at what is not being done, what it has not been able to do. Also, these agencies themselves have to consider—and this is a more serious and creditable consideration—their relations with the occupying Government. This latter consideration applies also to missionary bodies. They have their relations with the occupying Government and they may say: “We know terrible things happened in such and such a place, and such and such a place but, in the hope of doing something here and now in this village, it would be better for us to be quiet about those matters.” A kind of dead zone comes in.
I have been told by missionaries of certain things on which they would not wish to be quoted. I respect their reasons for not wishing to be quoted on that but it is all the more reason for having a direct look at these things by people whose only duty in the matter is to observe, to go and have a look and see exactly what is happening and come back and report it.
I would submit that we in this country have a sufficient interest in this area, and have proved our interest in the area sufficiently to do just that, to have a look at the situation on both sides  of the lines and see in the light of that —a report of whose objectivity we could be sure—how best we can use our limited means of helping them. It is a question of having antennae on this question and I am not quite satisfied that we do have these antennae at the moment. I think some of our relief work is going off, as it were, into the void, into the blind—not all of it. I am sure that to the extent that may be so the Minister and the Department will consider carefully what can be done to set it right.
I have no direct experience of the situation on the Federal side or the occupied parts of the eastern region. I have some slight direct experience of relief distribution on the Biafran side. Most recently I was there last Easter. I was there before in 1967. I went on behalf of the Biafra Relief Services Foundation of the United States, a body which had at that time raised 1½ million dollars for aid to Biafra. I should like to mention this for the Minister's consideration. It worked in a particular way. I am not suggesting it is the only way, but it is one way.
That foundation did not itself do any distribution locally nor did it in any other way locally apply the funds. It handed the funds over on a sort of counterpart system to a local Biafran group, many of them Biafran doctors, civil servants and other people who had worked in the United States and who knew many of the people participating at the United States end. They administered these funds and used them for the hospitals and refugee centres in Biafra.
The purpose of our visit at that time, at Easter, was to see just how effectively these funds were being used by the Biafrans themselves. We travelled through the area under Biafran control at that time. It has changed since. It has not entirely diminished but it has changed its contours since. We were extremely impressed by what the Biafrans were doing, not only with what we had raised but also with their general attitude to getting our relief supplies out, and their efficiency in doing so.
There can be few more impressive spectacles—certainly I cannot think of any—than the long line of lightless  lorries quietly moving up to and away from the blacked out airfield at Uli and picking up the 250 tons or so a night, as it then was, of relief supplies coming in from Sao Tome and Cotonou every night. That gets out, of course, to the villages. The missionary orders and other relief organisations usually organise the actual administration of the relief effort in the villages but the Biafrans themselves are responsible for the logistics of this operation which, if you think of the siege conditions under which these people had to work, is a very remarkable achievement.
My colleagues and I went away quite satisfied that relief supplies which reach Biafra are getting into the right hands, that they are smoothly and quickly distributed and that they are getting to the people who are in need, quite irrespective of what their ethnicicity may be. As I say, I speak from first-hand experience on that. I was absolutely satisfied about it at that time as existing in Biafran as recently as last Easter. I would of course be the first to agree that things may have deteriorated since then and that conditions may have significantly changed. I would hope that the conditions in both parts would be checked on, in both the Federal occupied part of the eastern region and Biafran itself, to see how supplies can best be got through and what is the maximum value in terms of reaching people in need that can be achieved by the use of our supplies.
Is it in the main by taking them into Biafra or is it by trying to work in the occupied area? Granted that we ought to try both but the test must be essentially how much food, medicine and so on are reaching the people in most desperate need of it and if this is best done by reaching the area where the material in question is effectively distributed. I am afraid that even though it is a most painful human choice that that is what is imposed.
I do not know how good our information is about what is now happening inside the enclave. There was a time up to October, 1967, in the first months of the war when, of course without recognising Biafra, we were in fact represented there. An official of the  Minister's Department was in Enugu. He was in a position to see what was going on there. He was an extremely well informed and able official and his presence there would have been of the greatest utility and service, I would suggest, to us at present when we are trying to see how most effectively to get aid there.
As I say, his presence in that part of Nigeria, as it was and is from the official point of view of our Government, did not imply any recognition of Biafra. It was in fact detached from the Embassy in Lagos and, I suppose, was conceived as having functions of a more or less consular character on the spot. Unfortunately—as I think—he was withdrawn after the fall of Enugu, and he was withdrawn by no coincidence, simultaneously with the British and American representatives who were in the same general position. It is hard to see the strict necessity for their withdrawal but they were withdrawn. I would ask the Minister to consider very carefully whether he could not—I am not asking him to recognise Biafra—without any commitment of that kind, attempt to restore the status we had then. When these representatives were withdrawn in October, 1967, the assumption was that which the British in particular have been consistently making about this war; that is, it was going to be a short-run affair, that when Enugu fell, and that is more than two years ago now, it was all over, as we would say, bar the shouting. Well, it was not. The people concerned were wrong and the war has gone on since then and it may go on for quite a long time, with all the suffering it involves.
We should consider very carefully whether we should not be in a position to see that situation through our own observers on the spot under arrangements essentially similar to those which existed before—or perhaps, if necessary, under new arrangements of a different, probably more informal, character. But we should know what is happening there. We should also insist, through the good relations which our Government must certainly enjoy with the Nigerian Government, that we be able to send our own observers into  the occupied areas of the former eastern region and see at first hand what is happening.
I suggest this would be of value for two reasons: it would help us in allocating our relief effort in the most efficient possible way; and it would serve as a certain restraint—imperfect certainly, but it might save lives—on the administering military officials in the area, if it was known that people would be coming in and having a look, people who would then be going home, not missionaries who would have to continue to work on the spot, not relief organisations who have to think of their good relations with the Government, but people who are pure observers, there for nothing else but to look at the situation, and then leave and report.
We all know it is a natural human tendency that if other people are coming to look at what we are doing we try to tidy up the house, and this is a house that needs a great deal of tidying, and we should help in that effort. I am not saying here, and I have deliberately refrained from saying in this House, that we should recognise the State of Biafra. The Government have had good reasons for not doing that, in that to do so might hamper its usefulness, hamper relief efforts in Nigeria and otherwise militate against effective help for the people, which is what we have to be mainly concerned with.
That has been my position but it has been misrepresented and I should like to put it right—not misrepresented by the Minister or his Department or by any of the gentlemen opposite. The Nigerian Embassy here has circulated a document, an extract from the West African Pilot. It is headed:
Irish Government Lauded for Rejecting Rebels.
Ojukwu Booed By Ibos In Lagos
The So-Called “Biafra” is NonExistent Except in Propaganda Terms.
The first two paragraphs in it read:
The Committee of Ibo Intellectuals in Lagos has welcomed the news report——
The reference to Ibos may possibly  puzzle certain Deputies, but it should be borne in mind that these unfortunate Ibos are in Lagos and are perhaps under certain pressures. I have no intention of criticising them here, but one can understand what their situation is, an extremely precarious one. The paragraph states:
The Committee of Ibo Intellectuals in Lagos has welcomed the news report from Ireland that the Irish Parliament has finally decided not to accord diplomatic recognition to Ojukwu's fast-crumbling dream empire, but pledged to support the Federal Military Government in its serious search for peace in Nigeria.
A statement issued yesterday said that the committee, describing the news as heartening also praised the former UN Observer Dr. Conor Cruise-O'Brien, currently a labour MP in Ireland, for his outspokenness and genuine change of heart in declaring in Parliament that he now supported non-recognition despite his previous utterances in favour of the rebels.
An Ceann Comhairle Cormac Breslin
An Ceann Comhairle: We are getting away from the supplementary estimate which deals solely with relief and rehabilitation and the plight of the victims of the Nigerian war.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: I do not propose to develop this theme, but I should like to stress its relevance. We are engaged in voting a supplementary estimate for the war-afflicted areas of Nigeria. Some of us do not believe that Biafra is a war-afflicted area of Nigeria; we regard it, as I say, as a nation in process of birth. We wish to help the people there on that understanding and we do not want to be misrepresented for so doing. I have not changed my views. I believe in the Biafran cause. I believe they are a people who have the right to be free. I am not trying to thrust that view on anyone else, certainly not in the debate on this supplementary estimate, but I do not want to be misrepresented and particularly misrepresented to the disservice of my friends in Biafra in the gallant struggle which they are putting up against vastly superior odds.
I hope that when the Minister comes to consider the further ways in which  we can help, he will again consider, and I am sure he is considering, whether he cannot channel some of our official aid directly through Joint Church Aid and Caritas Internationalis. I am a little disappointed that we have not yet decided to do that. I probably will not be accused by the gentlemen opposite of any excessive bias in favour of clerical administration of things or of any insistence that everything done by the clergy is always done right; I do not think that is so. However, this is one operation which I have seen on the spot and I know that Joint Church Aid more than any other group—Caritas Internationalis is playing a very significant part in this—is actually getting the relief through, and it is to the people who are getting the relief through that we should always give the greatest part of our support. I do not want to become involved in this debate on the supplementary estimate in any substantial discussion of the political aspects, although you allowed Deputy Cosgrave considerable indulgence in that regard.
An Ceann Comhairle Cormac Breslin
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Cosgrave mentioned it in passing, but he did not go into the details. The Deputy will appreciate that the question of policy would arise relevantly on the main Estimate.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: With respect, these themes cannot be entirely separated. If at the time of the Irish Famine—and the present disaster is fully on the scale of the Irish Famine —Irish Members of Parliament in Britain had tried to introduce the social and political aspects of life in Ireland at that time as relevant to the question of relief of the Famine, then it is possible that the Speaker, in the same spirit as you have done just now, would have ruled that out of order. With respect, I think it would have been a somewhat pedantic decision. I am sure the Chair will not insist that the political aspects should be set aside altogether in discussing this supplementary estimate.
I do not propose to enter deeply into the matter but I would like to remind the House of a statement made by Fr. Anthony Byrne who has  probably done more than any other person in this country to bring relief to this area—his work is well known to the Minister. Fr. Byrne has been working in Sao Tome. He will be coming back to this country shortly and I am sure he will be in touch with the Minister. Fr. Byrne has said, “Peace is the best relief.” I think that is the most striking definition one could possibly find of the way in which the political and relief aspects of this are inseparable, as I believe they are.
I would like to urge further on the Minister that he concern himself, with the same degree of urgency and effectiveness as this brief shows with the relief aspect, also with the peace aspect. I think the quotation which I have already given from the West African Pilot shows that our proceedings are not unremarked in the area. Quite often in international affairs we have been inclined to overestimate what we can do but I think this is one area in which we are underestimating what we can do. This is an area in which the Minister's voice in particular carries a certain weight and I hope he will use it not for the purpose of promoting immediate recognition of Biafra, but for the promotion of a ceasefire without political precondition, and for an international embargo on the sale of arms to that area.
Mr. Briscoe Mr. Briscoe
Mr. Briscoe: I should like to state first of all that Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien's concern is shared by all of us. I, for my part, am completely convinced of his sincerity in the matter. I should like to commend the sincerity of everyone who has spoken in this House regarding the situation in Biafra. We are talking here about the lives of millions of human beings and we are concerned with saving as many of those lives as possible. I think the way to look at it is to take each life as though it were the life of one of our own children.
I should like to pay tribute to the Government for the financial aid they have already given UNICEF, and to the great generosity of our people who have dug deep into their pockets to make contributions. I should also like to pay tribute to the various church  authorities for the wonderful work they have done.
I have a feeling that the people in this country want to do more than just send money to buy food and drugs; I think they want to participate to a greater degree in bringing relief to these people. It has occurred to me that the Minister might consider setting up “villages of peace”, similar to those started many years ago by the late Fr. Dominic Pire, for some of these young refugees in this war-torn part of the African continent. The State could purchase a farm of, say, 50 acres which they could develop for themselves. Fr. Pire used the term “self-help”. I am sure there are many people in this country who would be willing to adopt refugees, not necessarily orphans but children who would inevitably starve to death because of the massiveness of the problem confronting those concerned with bringing relief.
I would earnestly suggest that consideration be given to the setting up of a committee to examine how a “village of peace” could be set up over here. Each child that dies is a blot on the conscience of mankind. If we were able to set up such a “village of peace” I think we would set an example which other countries would follow. I am not too worried about the vastness of the problem because if we had only ten refugees here it would be a contribution. If we were to multiply this number by all the countries in the world, in proportion to their population, this idea could grow. If the idea had been suggested to us at the time of the Famine we would have been glad for any country to take our children so that they would not starve to death.
We tend to be critical of the UN from time to time because of the way political solutions seem to be very far off. We do have some consolation in seeing the workings of such organisations as UNICEF and WHO, which in my opinion more than vindicate the UN.
In conclusion, I should like to congratulate the Minister and his Department for the genuine concern they have shown for this part of Nigeria by their actions.
Mr. Desmond Mr. Desmond
 Mr. Desmond: I should like to congratulate the Minister for the introduction of this elementary recognition of Biafra by giving some of the nation's taxation to these tragic people. I do not think any one of us can prepare a meal for our families without having brought home to us very sharply the horror and agony of these people. I would urge the Minister to take even greater initiatives in this field.
My sympathies are with the people of Biafra and in that context I share the views of my colleague Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien. I think there is sufficient national concern to see being brought about a ceasefire without any political preconditions on either side. The Minister might usefully consider a joint parliamentary committee or a committee of this House to discuss the situation which has now lasted for a considerable time. That would be preferable to debating here publicly, in many respects emotionally, the very difficult aspects of the situation. A committee constituted of himself, the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien, Caritas and the other organisations could discuss not only the question of relief but also the question of bringing an end to hostilities. After all, peace is the greatest relief and the collective energies, intelligence and influence of all should be brought to bear on the Nigerian authorities and the overall attitude of the Irish people should be conveyed. I do not think that would in any way affect the sensitivity of the Minister or interfere with parliamentary democracy.
Like Deputy Cosgrave, I am somewhat sceptical of the direct channelling of relief through Lagos. The Minister has an obligation to ensure that every possible opportunity and every means of communication are availed of and, in his place, I would cast diplomatic niceties and susceptibilities to the four winds. I would have no hesitation in doing so provided the one criterion was satisfied, namely, getting aid direct to those most in need of aid.
We are imposing on our Irish missionaries, committed and involved as they are, and circumspect as they must be in their operations, far too great a burden from the point of view of relieving  the internal domestic situation. There should be a permanent public representative regularly available in the eastern region. That is absolutely essential if we are to come to grips more directly with the situation.
Having, to a limited extent, come to grips with the problem of aid, we should also face up to the fact that this situation has obtained since May of 1967. Biafra has been and continues to be separated from Nigeria. That is the reality. Separation would appear to be the normal development.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Denis Francis Jones
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair would hope that the Deputy would confine his remarks to the supplementary estimate before the House.
Mr. Desmond Mr. Desmond
Mr. Desmond: I shall do so, but I should like to point out that this secession is but one of a long series of secessions and inevitable realignments following on people obtaining their independence. It is only natural that they should wish to direct their own affairs. With regard to aid through Lagos, one cannot ignore the intensity of the strong Mohammedan tradition of the northern areas. Whether we appreciate it or not, there is intense hostility towards people in the eastern region. This has, I think, been underestimated by the Irish Government. Nowhere in Africa—I know this from my meetings with people from that continent—are there such tragic and vast differences between peoples. There should be greater direct aid.
I support the view of Deputy Cosgrave that, while giving aid, we must not lose sight of the more important issue, namely, the bringing of pressure to bear on the peace front itself. Any pressures should be on a double front, not necessarily a tripartite front. I would urge the Minister to bring pressure to bear on both the British and Russian Governments to cease supplying arms to Nigeria. The French contribution is not, I think, substantial. There is grave need, as was pointed out by another speaker, for more direct action by the Government in this direction.
 I congratulate the master and crew of the Columcille. This vessel is operating under UNICEF. The master and crew deserve the thanks and admiration of the Irish people. We should also express our regard for the tremendous work done by our Irish missionaries, in most difficult and trying circumstances, and the many people in Ireland, teachers and others, who have inspired such generosity towards these starving people. It is a fact that these have suffered greater physical deterioration in recent months.
It would be a gesture of solidarity and national concern were the Minister to visit both these areas, without any preconditions. It would be a useful act of political awareness. It would demonstrate the development of attitudes. The Minister might go to Lagos and visit Biafra and find out at first hand what the situation is. Should he do so we will give him all the support and encouragement he may require. I have no doubt that there would be substantial development.
In conclusion, therefore, I would indicate that our desire is for peace. Admittedly aid is now being given but the real long-term solution is the introduction of a ceasefire without political preconditions and, as far as I am concerned, the ultimate formation of an independent Biafran State. That is quite inevitable in many respects. We have no desire in the Labour Party to exacerbate the situation there but we see, in many respects, its inevitability. We can only hope that the aid we are giving will be adequate. As far as I am concerned the Minister is most welcome to come before the House again with further measures because he can be assured of the full support of everybody in the House.
Dr. Hillery Dr. Hillery
Dr. Hillery: I should like to thank the House for the support given to the supplementary estimate. Before going on, perhaps, I should take up a point raised by Deputy Desmond, the praise due to the missionaries for the work they are doing in relief throughout the whole area. From time to time at Question Time I have expressed my opinion on several of the political matters raised today and I intend to take an appropriate opportunity of  dealing with political aspects again. I agree that it is not possible to separate the humanitarian activities from the political considerations and that peace is the best relief but I wish today to deal just with the humanitarian aspects and some other points raised.
The main point in the minds of many Deputies is whether the relief is getting through. Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien raised the question as to whether I am informed about the situation. I am in touch directly with the relief organisations who have people working in the field. The Red Cross have a team in one of the areas the Deputy had in mind. I am in touch with the missionary bodies that have personnel working in these areas and I get regular detailed reports from the Embassy at Lagos.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien Dr. Cruise-O'Brien
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: Has the Embassy access to outside areas?
Dr. Hillery Dr. Hillery
Dr. Hillery: It is the practice to move out and I hope they will continue and extend this.
I think the relief organisations are doing their best in a very difficult war situation. This is why we are giving so much study in depth to what is the best way of giving Government relief so as to give the greatest benefit to the people concerned. I am convinced that UNICEF is one way of doing it. UNICEF is not limited, I think, by being a United Nations agency. It is motivated by humanitarian reasons only and I gather that it has been very active on both sides since January of 1968. UNICEF has used the Red Cross and Church Aid channels for getting  supplies into Biafra. Since the stoppage of the International Red Cross flights they have been using the Church Aid channel. They supply food and medicine to both sides and have field personnel on both sides. The UNICEF programme covers about 3,000,000 women and children on each side and the medical care programme also covers both sides.
In the third quarter of this year UNICEF shipped 43,700 bags of rice; 60,000 bags of beans, 1,000 bags of dried skimmed milk as well as a quantity of corn and soya meal, high protein powder, medicines and drugs and hospital equipment. The bulk of this has gone into Biafra.
I am in close touch with the Red Cross about plans for further relief within Biafra. I hope the technical details of this matter will be solved in a few days and that I shall be able to make a further statement when the plans are finalised. I have the questions in relation to the political points that were raised and these were answered quite recently, on 27th November, and I think Deputies are aware of the attitude of the Government on the political situation. There will be an occasion to discuss this again; no situation is rigid and I should prefer to confine myself to the humanitarian aspects today.
Question put and agreed to.
Supplementary Estimates reported and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 1.40 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 9th December, 1969.
Dáil Éireann 243 Committee on Finance. Vote 46—International Co-operation.