Time has come for Ireland to start increasing spending on aid, says Varadkar
Ireland must increase its spend on international aid, the Taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar said the country has "fallen back quite a lot" with its contribution to international development aid commitments because of the recession and, more recently, a very fast growing economy.
In September it emerged that Ireland's overseas development aid was well below the UN target.
The Irish Aid Annual Report 2016 showed the country spent 724 million euros on overseas development aid in 2016, which was 12% more than the previous year, but at 0.33% of Gross National Income (GNI) it was still below the UN target of 0.7%.
Mr Varadkar said: "By the middle of the year (2018) we'll have done some work on a review of our international development aid commitments.
"Ireland has fallen back quite a lot, first because of the recession and secondly, more recently, because of a very fast growing economy."
The Fine Gael leader added: "Our contribution to international development is now only about 0.3% of our GNI.
"We had been around .58 at one stage so the time has come I think for Ireland as a country to start increasing our spending on international development again and that will be part of our plans for Ireland's contribution to the world and also for our foreign policy."
Mr Varadkar said he hoped to be able to set out a schedule by the middle of the year as to how that can be done in the years ahead.
The Irish Aid Annual Report 2016, released earlier this year, showed that almost 200 million euro of the country's overseas development aid went towards the urgent humanitarian need in Syria, Yemen and other countries.
Almost a quarter of all aid went to NGOs based in Ireland.
Half the allocation was spent on development projects in eight countries including Ethiopia, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
At the time Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the UN spending goal would be achieved in 2030.
However, Dochas - an umbrella group of NGOs - said the target needs to be met by 2025.