By Susan Gately - 21 April, 2018
In the wake of the bombing of government sites in Syria by the US, UK and France in response to an alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma, the Irish aid agency Trócaire has appealed to members of the public to “send an SOS for Syria” to the Irish government to push for peace.
“The use of chemical gases and nerve agents is abhorrent and must not be accepted. What the people of Syria want in response is a peace process, not more bombs,” said Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan earlier this week. “A further escalation of violence will lead only to more civilian suffering. Trócaire calls on all parties involved to refrain from military escalation and focus on a diplomatic resolution.”
Highlighting this response, the charity is requesting that people fill in a form on its website asking their politicians to “tell Minister Ciarán Cannon or Prime Minister Theresa May, as they prepare for the Syria Donor Conference in Brussels on April 24th & 25th that Ireland and the UK must do more to protect civilians in Syria”.
The letter (addressed to Irish TDs and British MPs), says: “Every aspect of International Humanitarian Law is being breached in this conflict. This law states that civilians should not be deliberately targeted during conflict. Hospitals, schools, houses and even funerals have been hit by airstrikes. For the civilian population trapped in Syria nowhere is safe.”
Welcoming Ireland’s diplomatic efforts to date and the money that has been contributed to the humanitarian crisis there, it says that “seven years into this horrific war, these responses are no longer enough. On 24th & 25th April in Brussels, when Minister Ciarán Cannon represents Ireland at the Syria Donor Conference, please ask him on my behalf to: 1. Continue, in the strongest terms possible, to press EU and UN member states to pursue a full diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict. 2. Increase humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians who require better solutions after 7 years of war.
“Ireland has acted, but we must now redouble our efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to this conflict on behalf of all innocent Syrians,” says the letter.
Trócaire is still working in Syria and Lebanon to provide humanitarian aid as well as education and psychological support to people affected by the war which is now in its seventh year. Last year, according to the aid agency, its Syria programme supported over 72,000 people.
Meanwhile on Thursday (19 April), Éamonn Meehan announced he would retire from the organisation in October, having served Trócaire for 27 years, the last 5 as Executive Director.
Stressing the privilege it had been to serve the organisation, Mr Meehan said “the work Trócaire performs each and every day is vital and life-changing”.
Trócaire’s mission was “as important now as it has ever been,” he said, and paid tribute to the agency’s dedicated staff. He also thanked the Irish public for their “generosity and support which I know will continue into the future”. In the coming weeks, the organisation will begin its search for a new Chief Executive Officer. The recruitment will be led by the organisation’s board, chaired by Bishop William Crean.