Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



History and the development aid debate in the Republic of Ireland

Professionalisation and Deradicalisation of Development Education
Spring 2011

Kevin O'Sullivan


In September 2006, more than thirty-two years after its publication was first discussed, the Irish government issued its White Paper on Irish Aid.  Designed to encourage a greater public understanding of the official aid programme, the document contained more than a passing reference to the role of the past in shaping Irish Aid’s present.  In the preface, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and Minister of State in charge of Development Co-operation and Human Rights Conor Lenihan drew on the strength of precedence and Ireland’s traditions in the field of development aid: ‘It is important to realise that we are not starting with a blank slate.  Irish Aid, which has been in operation since 1974, has been very favourably reviewed by independent institutions and other international donors’ (DFA, 2006a:5).

          Experience, they implied, was vital – not least in building brand longevity.  But also implicit in their comments was a conviction that the lessons of the past were important in informing decision-making in the present.  The message of the conclusion was simple: history matters.  Yet the question remains: just how does a better understanding of the past make for better judgements in the present?  This article, drawing on the author’s research into the history of Irish foreign aid since the late 1960s, explores the discipline’s use in understanding the development sector today.  It is divided into four parts.  The article begins with an outline of the rapid expansion in the study of aid history over the past decade, before briefly analysing how history contributes to contemporary policy-making and society.  The final two sections document the practical uses of historical insight: in explaining the influence of the European Economic Community/ European Union (EEC/EU) on aid in Ireland and the EU’s newest member states, and in helping to shed light on the impact of economic recession on donor behaviour.  The article concludes by outlining some of the lessons history offers to today’s decision-makers.

Writing aid history

For a country well versed in the official adaptation of the past to suit present agendas, Ahern and Lenihan’s remarks in the White Paper on Irish Aid were hardly a radical departure.  In his foreword to the document, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern linked Ireland’s past directly with its contemporary attitudes to aid: ‘Because of our history, Ireland can rightly claim to empathise with those who are suffering from disease, poverty and hunger every day around the globe’ (DFA, 2006a:3).  But the Taoiseach was simply the latest in a long line to make this assertion.  From the aid sector’s emergence in Ireland in the mid-1960s, official policy-makers and NGOs drew heavily on what they saw as the twin pillars of their country’s relationship with the global South: a ‘shared legacy with developing countries [that] has helped to create a strong bond of understanding and empathy’ (DFA, 2002:15); and the argument that Irish attitudes to aid – as Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen put it – were ‘very clearly built on the missionary tradition’ (Kilcullen, 2010:17).

          In spite of these consistent references to the past, however, the study of aid history in Ireland has received limited attention.  Articles by O’Neill (1999; 2002) and this author (O’Sullivan, 2007) have traced the evolution of official aid.  Books by Farmar (on Concern; 2002) and Maye (on Trócaire; 2010) have broadened our understanding of Ireland’s vibrant non-governmental development sector.  But the study of Ireland’s relationship with the developing world has largely been the preserve of other disciplines, led by the journal Trócaire Development Review and books by Kirby (1992) and Holmes, Rees and Whelan (1993).

          This limited treatment of Ireland’s aid history is not unremarkable.  When economic historian Richard T. Griffiths reflected on almost a decade of international research into the history of foreign aid in 2008, he accompanied it with a call for the rapid – and necessary – expansion of the sub-discipline (2008).  His comments came at a time of transition for academic histories of foreign aid.  At the turn of the twenty-first century, it had been left to social scientists like David Lumsdaine (1993), Terje Tvedt (1998) and Alex de Waal (1997) to provide the narrative and theoretical frameworks for mapping the evolution of the development sector.  The study of aid history flourished only from the early 2000s, prompted by the groundbreaking contributions to a special edition of the journal Contemporary European History dedicated to the subject (Schmidt & Pharo, 2003) and extended in research projects in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and the Nordic states.

          Carol Lancaster’s wide-ranging monograph Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics (2007) led the way: a brilliant introduction to aid-giving across five countries – Denmark, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.  At the heart of Lancaster’s monograph lay a simple but important lesson: since aid is an inherently global undertaking, its history must be understood in a similar context.  Others were quick to follow.  A two-volume study detailing the national dynamics of aid-giving in the Cold War appeared in 2008 (Pharo & Fraser), and is to be followed this year (2011) by a volume documenting the rise of foreign aid as a norm in international relations (Olesen & Pharo, 2011).

          The prominent role taken by non-state actors in an increasingly globalised aid environment since the late 1960s sparked further research into the rise of the NGO sector.  Scholars like Matthew Connelly (2008), Gilbert Rist (2008) and James Vernon (2007) traced the evolving norms of development and human rights in the twentieth century. Historians in Australia (Rugendyke & Ollif, 2007), Britain (Saunders, 2009; Crowson & Hilton’s NGOs in Britain project at the University of Birmingham), and the Netherlands (Smits, 2008) joined them in recent years, charting the fortunes of NGOs at national level and adding to a small body of research on individual organisations like Médecins sans Frontières (Vallaeys, 2004) and Oxfam (Black, 1992).

History, society and policy-making

At the end of his 2008 article, Griffiths was clear about the potential for this body of work to contribute strongly to contemporary debate.  By analysing the expansion of the international aid regime since the 1970s, he argued in respect to the effectiveness of Western aid policies, and the successes (or not) of their endeavours in the global South that historians will have ‘major contributions to make to the academic discourse and the public debate on development assistance’ (Griffiths, 2008:48-49).  Yet Griffiths was less expansive in describing just how that would happen.  Now that we have begun to write these histories and make them available to a wider audience, what are they to do with them?  What use is history to the aid practitioner or policy-maker?

          A number of patterns present themselves easily from the histories of official aid completed to date.  Comparing the evolution of the aid sector in Ireland and Finland, for example, with post-imperial donors like Britain and France, and even with non-aligned states in Scandinavia, it is abundantly clear that memories of foreign rule and late industrial development elicit a particular response to the needs of the developing world.  Social and political structures are also important, since, as Noël and Thérien’s study from the mid-1990s showed, ‘[w]elfare principles institutionalised at the domestic level shape the participation of developed countries in the international aid regime’ (1995:552).  Money matters: Ireland has always – apart from a brief spurt in the early 2000s – lagged behind more affluent, if politically like-minded, states like Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden in the level of its official development assistance (ODA).  Foreign policy concerns are also a determining factor, whether as part of an attempt to extend American or Soviet influence in the Cold War; as part of Chinese and Indian soft power in the post-September 11 period; or as part of Irish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish attempts to link aid to international justice and co-operation through the United Nations (UN).

          How to make the leap from these broad conclusions to the practical world of foreign aid is another issue.  How we apply the lessons of history in contemporary practice is a subject of continued conjecture among academic historians.  The problem, as John Tosh asserted in 2008, is that ‘professional historians are strangely reluctant to adopt the role of expert.  If they reach out to the public, it is usually to popularise academic history of a conventional kind; and most historians prefer to address only their academic peers’ (Tosh, 2008a:4).

          Their reluctance may, on one level, have something to do with the historian’s role ‘to point out that things weren’t quite as simple as is usually claimed’, since it may all-too-readily feel like ‘tiresome nitpicking’ (Reisz, 2009).  Yet the discipline’s importance remains indisputable.  For analysts of the contemporary foreign aid sector, history’s emphasis on causality and long-term processes of change is important in highlighting patterns of aid-giving and aid-effectiveness.  For example, individual lessons can be extracted – what works, what doesn’t, and what has yet to be tried – and applied to a variety of present-day circumstances.

          At the same time, however, history’s contributions are often difficult to contextualise. Historian Ruth Harris commented in 2009 on the difficulty of untangling the message from the medium: ‘Occasionally, a history of banking or recent foreign policy might provide easy, transparent lessons.  But the “big” lessons are harder to extract’ (Reisz, 2009).  It is not, however, impossible to do so.  The discipline’s contribution goes far beyond a collection of precedents: it helps to shape the culture in which policies are made.  At its most basic level, history contributes to the development of institutional memory, with a positive knock-on effect for contemporary decision-making.  It is arguable, for example, that the criticisms of the administration of Ireland’s aid programme in the late 1980s – the rapid turnover of staff within a small division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the considerable difficulties caused by the almost total absence of ‘corporate memory’ that resulted (ACDC, 1988:8) – may have been alleviated, if not negated, by a better understanding of the programme’s past.

          History also provides us with the tools to analyse and appreciate how we arrived at our present state.  Understanding the past, as John Tosh put it, ‘can open the door to a broader sense of the possibilities of the present’ (2008b).  At the heart of this assertion is the emphasis placed on context.  Context does away with an over-emphasis on precedent, allowing us to appreciate that familiar-looking opportunities or problems require a response shaped to suit the situation.  It teaches us that the constant process of change means that every event, as Tosh and Lang have argued, ‘is as a result of a unique combination of circumstances, and the strategies we adopt must have regard primarily to those circumstances’ (2006:39).  Importantly, however, this emphasis on context does not preclude the historian from pointing out possible sequences of events based on our knowledge of the circumstances that have brought us to our present position.  Instead, it is the combination of context with history’s discussion of process that makes the discipline so valuable to our understanding of the contemporary world.

Leading by example

The remainder of this article explores the uses of history in explaining the contemporary aid environment.  It focuses on one important case study: the lessons from the evolution of the Irish aid sector since the mid-1970s and their applicability to the new member states (NMS) that have joined the EU since 2004.

          In an unusual interpretation the comparison begins with a practical discussion of precedent and the lessons of history.  At an informal meeting of European development ministers in Luxembourg in February 2005, Irish Minister of State for Development Co-operation and Human Rights Conor Lenihan met with his counterparts from the NMS to discuss a proposal from his government ‘to share…the lessons we have learned since setting up Ireland’s official development assistance programme more than 30 years ago’ (DFA, 2006b:41).  The NMS, for their part, believed that they could ‘best learn from experiences of the other donors, from their mistakes and successes’, examples of which Ireland was hardly lacking (Slovenia Centre, 2008:20).  Over the following two years officials from Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovakia and Malta visited Ireland for separate two-and-a-half day periods, during which they met with representatives from the Irish government and a number of Irish NGOs and discussed problems and solutions in the structure and direction of their own aid programmes.

          For the NMS, the most useful lessons of the Irish experience were in building a development aid programme almost from scratch and, at the same time, responding to institutional pressures at European level.  The European Commission had already noted the NMS’s need for assistance ‘to enable them to accomplish their new obligations on development’ (2005:111).  Two years before accession, the Commission had initiated a programme of work to prepare them for their responsibilities in the field, and later reflected that support might even have been initiated ‘at an earlier stage’ (European Commission, 2005: 112).

          The context of the NMS’s accession was, of course, radically different to Ireland’s.  The European Economic Community (EEC) that Ireland joined in 1973 lacked the kind of bureaucratic structures to deal with aid-giving at supranational level that came with successive Lomé conventions and parallel structural reform, and the global aid industry itself was still in the early throes of expansion.  Yet the essential lessons of the Irish experience were undeniably salient for the NMS.  On accession, Ireland had been marked out as the only member state without an official aid programme, at a time when the EEC had just begun to seek out the means of living up to its responsibilities as a global economic power.  The immediate financial implications – notably Irish contributions to the Community’s food aid programme and, later, to the European Development Fund – were matched by the strong pull of peer pressure.  The unfavourable contrast between Ireland and its European counterparts placed considerable pressure on Irish policy-makers to conform.  So too did the EEC’s adoption of the 0.7 per cent target in 1974, set by the UN as part of its Second Development Decade.

          The result was a significant widening of Ireland’s responsibilities in the field of foreign aid.  The outline of Ireland’s first official aid programme was announced in April 1974 at a Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg, and was followed by the development of a bilateral aid programme and a considerable increase in Irish contributions to a number of multilateral agencies. Membership of the Community also exposed Irish policy-makers to issues on which they had little or no prior experience.  In 1975, for example, Irish officials presided over the final negotiations for the Lomé Convention, signed during their country’s first Presidency of the EEC.

          The EEC/EU has proved an enduring influence on small member states.  Austrian accession in 1995 brought a visible and immediate increase in multilateral spending (mainly through the EU), accompanied by a concurrent expansion in its development horizons (Obrovsky, 2005:117, 127, 133).  In Finland, a recession-induced fall in overseas development assistance (ODA) in the early 1990s was reversed only after the country joined the EU and pressures from that source became too vociferous to ignore (Koponen with Siitonen, 2005:225).  Even Sweden, which entered the EU in 1995 as one of the leading advocates of development aid, was forced to adapt to the increasing integration of its development policies into those decided in Brussels, taking on considerable extra responsibilities not only in its contributions to the construction of policy, but in the large amounts provided to development through the EU budget (Danielson & Wohlgemuth, 2005:528).  In 2006 Irish Aid described EU development assistance as ‘an integral part’ of its structures, recognising its ‘norm-setting role’, the importance of ‘coherence’, ‘co-ordination’ and ‘harmonisation’, and working with ‘like-minded’ EU donors (DFA, 2006a:81).  It did not stop there: EU security concerns, trade agreements and foreign policy goals all exerted a considerable influence on the direction and extent of aid.

          For the NMS, the lesson was to recognise the enduring power of international institutions in setting norms of behaviour in the field of development aid.  But the story of Irish adaptation to membership of the EEC/EU also offered an important example of how small states operate in that environment: how to respond, adjust and expand according to European demands, but also – and equally importantly – how to retain their independence in so doing.

The economics of aid

In Dublin, the ‘mentoring programme’ – as it came to be known by Irish officials – served as an important indication of just how far the country’s aid programme had come in thirty years. Yet the lessons of more than three decades of bureaucratic practice within the EEC/EU told only half the story.  The parallel experiences of Ireland in the 1970s and the NMS in more recent years – particularly the attempt to maintain ODA levels at a time of economic recession – underline a simple, though no less compelling, lesson from the history of foreign aid: the economy matters.

          In the Irish case, the oil crisis of 1973 and subsequent recession threatened first to derail proposals for an official aid programme (narrowly agreed by the Cabinet in April 1974), then seriously inhibited its growth (O’Sullivan, 2007:101, 103-104).  Irish ODA levels rose from 0.036 per cent of GNP in 1972-73 to 0.104 per cent in 1976, but by the end of the decade had reached only 0.18 per cent of GNP (Sutton, 1977:76; O’Brien, 1980:16). Ongoing battles between the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Finance – not least Minister for Foreign Affairs Garret FitzGerald’s later assertion that Finance had deliberately misinterpreted the formula set out in 1974 for reaching 0.35 per cent of GNP by 1980 (Interview with FitzGerald, 2005) – underlined the essential conflict between domestic economic priorities and efforts to build a foreign aid programme.

          Allowing for national and regional disparities, the NMS experience has proven remarkably similar.  The early years of EU membership were accompanied by a steady growth in ODA.  Yet the slow pace of that growth indicated that political and economic priorities remained elsewhere.  A 2007 report by the Prague-based Policy Association for an Open Society to the European Parliament’s Committee on Development took a critical tone in discussing the new member states’ ODA contributions and their commitments to the EU.  It argued that ‘[d]espite the economic growth experienced by the NMS in the past decade, many of them are not on course to meet those targets [to reach 0.17 per cent of GNI by 2010 and 0.33 per cent by 2015]’ and suggested that the states’ economic development was not being matched in their commitment to development aid (PASOS, 2007:1).  In the recession that followed, the NMS’s commitments to aid have continued to falter, falling well short of the EU targets.

          Although it is difficult to compare Irish economic development in the 1970s with the current situation in the NMS, it is possible to point to one important parallel in the link between economic under-development and ODA: self-perceptions remain critically important.  A June 2008 meeting of aid officials from the NMS held in Ljubljana noted that many of those states ‘still perceive themselves as recipients of development assistance’ and view their aid contributions in those terms (Slovenia Centre, 2008:7).  In Ireland nearly twenty-one years earlier, when the new Fianna Fáil Minister of State in charge of Development Aid, Seán Calleary, re-stated his government’s commitment to reach the 0.7 per cent target in July 1987, he included the oft-repeated caveat: ‘as soon as our economic circumstances permit’ (Pyle, 1987).  That mentality proved central in shaping what officials believed their country should and – most importantly – could give.  Three months later, the government announced its intention to cut ODA by £11 million (25 per cent) and in the succeeding years the cuts introduced across the different sectors of public spending continued to fall heavily on the ODA budget, which dropped from 0.28 per cent of GNP in 1986 to 0.18 per cent in 1990 (OECD, 1988:58; OECD, 1991:126).

          Yet the fundamental difference between the Irish and NMS experience of recession – the continuing strong public support for, and interest in aid, particularly non-governmental aid, that existed in Ireland in the 1980s – carries important lessons for the survival of the aid sector in each of these countries.  The absence of any significant links between the NMS and the developing world, along with their largely under-developed NGO sectors has further limited public support in those countries for development aid.  In spite of considerable pressure from the European Commission and visible improvements in their aid policies, this lack of public support resulted in limited political will to expand aid or to reach targets set for them by the EU.  In Ireland, by contrast, public interest in, and support for aid – fuelled by a long history of Catholic missionary activity, together with the frequent references to a shared colonial past with the developing world – remained strongly in evidence: for example in the £7.5m contributed to Live Aid in Ireland in 1985 (FitzGerald, 1988:333), or in the consistently high levels of support for NGOs and the concept of aid (ACDC, 1985; ACDC, 1990).

           There were, admittedly, some caveats to that picture.  Public support for NGOs and aid in times of emergency proved difficult to translate into support for long-term development aid in Ireland.  In November 1990 Campaign-Aid – a group that drew together Irish NGOs, TDs (members of the Dáil, the Irish parliament) and trade union representatives, and was strongly critical of government’s cutbacks in ODA – collected 21,000 signatures on a petition urging the government to increase ODA, but was refused a meeting by Taoiseach Charles Haughey (Yeates, 1990). The argument that Ireland was itself under-developed and so could not afford to donate its much-needed resources to external problems was also openly in evidence.  In August 1986, the organisation for returned development workers, Comhlámh, devoted a special edition of its newsletter, Third World Now, to the link between under-development in Ireland and the developing world.  The picture it painted reflected the priorities of many in Irish society in the middle of that decade.  ‘Mary’, who had no steady employment since leaving school eight years previously, wondered if anyone was concerned ‘about the conditions of poverty that exist in this country, the Third World that exists here.  One can’t be concerned about the one and then ignore the other’ (Comhlámh, 1986).

          Whether these arguments will have any additional gravitas in our new recession is difficult to tell.  However, comments made by the chairman of Glen Dimplex, Martin Naughton, in December 2010 – ‘it’s crazy for the Government to borrow money and then give it away in overseas aid’ – were not simply a repetition of a debate frequently returned to in the 1980s (McCaffrey, 2010).  Context, history teaches us, is important.  However rapid the country’s decline, there has – as yet – been no return to the argument that Ireland is ‘a Third World country’.


This article began by posing the question: how can a better understanding of the past make for better judgements in the contemporary aid sector?  It showed that aid history – in the academic sense – is still in its relative infancy.  Yet its contributions are already being felt. Sunniva Engh’s work on Swedish aid and population control, for example, has been important in forcing a re-assessment of that country’s policies in the sector (2008).  Bureaucrats have also got in on the act: exchanges between Irish policy-makers and their counterparts from the NMS helped to shape the latter’s assimilation into the EU’s development structures.

          But it is in the less tangible – though no less potent – understanding of process and context that history provides where the influence of the discipline is most keenly felt.  Economic crises may have a similar limiting effect across time, but the depth of their impact on official aid depends very much on individual social, political and cultural factors.  Comparing the history of Ireland with the present-day trials of the NMS, for example, reminds us that self-perceptions of wealth and obligation are vital in determining individual generosity towards the developing world.  But it also reminds us of the complexity of these identities.  The strong Christian and moral obligations towards the developing world cultivated by Ireland’s missionaries, allied with the less easily measured though no less apparent cultural memory of colonialism, have consistently produced a positive attitude towards the developing world – regardless of economic circumstances.

          What then of Ireland and the future of aid in these uncertain economic times?  History teaches us that, in contrast to the 1980s, Ireland has a lot to fall back on: a large and highly developed official aid bureaucracy, a vibrant and professional NGO sector, and continued strong public support for the concept of foreign aid.  But it is a comparison with the Finnish experience of the 1990s that proves most telling.  The expansion of the Finnish official aid programme during a period of sustained economic growth from the mid-1970s until the early 1990s, during which ODA reached 0.8 per cent of GNP by 1991, was decimated in the deep economic recession that followed.  By 1994 Finnish ODA had dropped by more than half, to just 0.3 per cent of GNP (Koponen with Siitonen, 2005:222).  Yet the institutions created in that decade-and-a-half of growth, along with pressures from the EU (which Finland joined in 1995) and its Nordic neighbours reduced the scope for the complete collapse of the aid industry.  The lessons for today’s policy-makers and aid watchers, therefore, are less in the size of the fall, but rather in the cushion below.


Advisory Council on Development Co-operation (1985) Aid to Third World Countries: Attitudes of a National Sample of Irish People, Dublin: ACDC.


Advisory Council on Development Co-operation (1988) Irish Bilateral Aid: The Evaluation Process, Dublin: ACDC.


Advisory Council on Development Co-operation (1990) Aid to Third World Countries: Attitudes of a National Sample of Irish People May 1990, Dublin: ACDC.


Black, M (1992) A Cause for Our Times: Oxfam, the First Fifty Years, Oxford: Oxfam/Oxford University Press.


Comhlámh (1986) ‘Editorial’, Third World Now, August/September 1986.


Commission of the European Communities (2005) Annual Report 2005 on the European Community’s Development Policy and the Implementation of External Assistance in 2004, Brussels: Commission of the European Communities.


Connelly, M (2008) Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Danielson, A and Wohlgemuth, L (2005) ‘Swedish Development Co-operation in Perspective’ in P Hoebink and O Stokke (eds.) Perspectives on European Development Co-operation: Policy and Performance of Individual Donor Countries and the EU, London: Routledge.


Department of Foreign Affairs (2002) Report of the Ireland Aid Review Committee: A Review of the Development Co-operation Programme of the Government of Ireland, Dublin: DFA.


Department of Foreign Affairs (2006a) White Paper on Irish Aid, Dublin: DFA.


Department of Foreign Affairs (2006b) Irish Aid: Annual Report 2006, Dublin: DFA.


Engh, S (2008) ‘From Northern Feminists to Southern Women: Scandinavian Population Aid to India’ in H Pharo and M P Fraser (eds.) The Aid Rush: Aid Regimes in Northern Europe During the Cold War, Oslo: Oslo University Press.


Farmar, T (2002) Believing in Action: The First Thirty Years of Concern 1968-1998, Dublin: A & A Farmar.


FitzGerald, G (1988) ‘Ireland’s Development Policy: Aid and Trade’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 77, No. 307, pp. 328-341.


FitzGerald, G (2005) Interview with Author, Dublin, 6 July 2005.


Griffiths, R T (2008) ‘Some Reference Points for Historical Research’ in H Pharo and M P Fraser (eds.) The Aid Rush: Aid Regimes in Northern Europe During the Cold War, Oslo: Oslo University Press.


Holmes, M, Rees, N and Whelan, B (1993) The Poor Relation: Irish Foreign Policy and the Third World, Dublin: Trócaire & Gill and Macmillan.


Kilcullen, J (2010) ‘Introduction’ in B Maye (ed.) The Search for Justice – Trócaire: A History, Dublin: Veritas.


Kirby, P (1992) Ireland and Latin America: Links and Lessons, Dublin: Trócaire & Gill and Macmillan.


Koponen, J, with Siitonen, L (2005) ‘Finland: Aid and Identity’ in P Hoebink and O Stokke (eds.) Perspectives on European Development Co-operation: Policy and Performance of Individual Donor Countries and the EU, London: Routledge.


Lancaster, C (2007) Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics, London: University of Chicago Press.


Lumsdaine, D H (1993) Moral Vision in International Politics: The Foreign Aid Regime, 1949-1989, Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Maye, B (2010) The Search for Justice – Trócaire: A History, Dublin: Veritas.


McCaffrey, U (2010) ‘Top Industrialist Wants Dáil Halved and Overseas Aid Ended’ in The Irish Times, 3 Decemeber 2010.


Noël, A and Thérien, J-P (1995) ‘From Domestic to International Justice: The Welfare State and Foreign Aid’, International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 523-553.


O’Brien, D (1980) Ireland and the Third World: A Study of Government Aid, Dublin: Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.


Obrovsky, M (2005) ‘Austrian Aid Policy’ in P Hoebink and O Stokke (eds.) Perspectives on European Development Co-operation: Policy and Performance of Individual Donor Countries and the EU, London: Routledge.


OECD (1988) Development Co-operation: Efforts and Policies of the Members of the Development Assistance Committee 1987 Report, Paris: OECD.


OECD (1992) Development Co-operation: Efforts and Policies of the Members of the Development Assistance Committee 1991 Report, Paris: OECD.


Olesen, T B and Pharo, H (eds.) (2011, forthcoming) Aid Norms and Aid Realities: Foreign Aid and its Dynamics in a Historical and Comparative Context, Oslo: Oslo University Press.


O’Neill, H (1999) ‘Ireland’s Foreign Aid in 1998’, Irish Studies in International Affairs, Vol. 10, pp. 289-305.


O’Neill, H (2002) ‘Ireland’s Official Aid Programme’ in B Tonra and E Ward (eds.) Ireland in International Affairs: Interests, Institutions and Identities, Dublin: IPA.


O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Biafra to Lomé: The Evolution of Irish Government Policy on Official Development Assistance, 1969-75’, Irish Studies in International Affairs, Vol. 18, pp. 91-107.


Policy Association for an Open Society, Prague (2007) ‘The Challenge of the EU Development Co-operation Policy for New Member States: Report for the European Parliament Committee on Development’, available: http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00003135/01/EPdevelopmentreportPASOS0910007.pdf. (accessed 31 July 2008)


Pharo, H and Fraser, M P (eds.) (2008) The Aid Rush: Aid Regimes in Northern Europe During the Cold War, Oslo: Oslo University Press.


Pyle, F (1987) ‘Policy of Reaching UN Aid Target Underlined’ in The Irish Times, 29 July 1987.


Reisz, M (2009) ‘Past Mistakes’ in Times Higher Education, 15 October 2009, available: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=408693&c=2. (accessed 10 January 2011)


Rist, G (2008) The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, 3rd edition, London: Zed Books.


Rugendyke, B and Ollif, C (2007) ‘Charity to Advocacy: Changing Agendas of Australian NGOs’ in B Rugendyke (ed.) NGOs as Advocates for Development in a Globalising World, London: Routledge.


Saunders, C (2009), ‘British Humanitarian, Aid and Development NGOs, 1949-Present’ in N Crowson, M Hilton and J McKay (eds.) NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-state Actors and Politics Since 1945, London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Schmidt, H I and Pharo, H (eds.) (2003) ‘Europe and the First Development Decade. The Foreign Economic Assistance Policy of European Donor Countries, 1958-1972’, theme issue of Contemporary European History, Vol. 12, No. 4.


Slovenian Centre of Excellence in Finance (2008) ‘Final Report of International Conference on “Development assistance operators from the EU new member states: experiences, trends and challenges” – Ljubljana, Slovenia, 3-4 June 2008’, available: http://www.cef-see.org/oda.htm. (accessed 31 July 2008)


Smits, M (2008) ‘Non-governmental Organisations in the Netherlands. From Private Funding to Governmental Support’ in H Pharo and M P Fraser (eds.) The Aid Rush: Aid Regimes in Northern Europe During the Cold War, Oslo: Oslo University Press.


Sutton, M (1977) Irish Government Aid to the Third World – Review and Assessment, Dublin: Trócaire & the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.


Tosh, J (2008a) Why History Matters, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Tosh, J (2008b) ‘Why History Matters’ in History & Policy, November 2008, available: http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-79.html. (accessed 10 January 2011)


Tosh, J with Lang, S (2006) The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 4th edition, Harlow: Pearson Education.


Tvedt, T (1998) Angels of Mercy or Development Diplomats? NGOs and Foreign Aid, Oxford: James Currey.


Vallaeys, A (2004) Médecins sans Frontières: La Biographie, Paris: Fayard.


Vernon, J (2007) Hunger: A Modern History, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.


De Waal, A (1997) Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa, Oxford: James Currey.


Yeates, P (1990) ‘Bishop Criticises Haughey For Not Meeting Aid Group’ in The Irish Times, 22 November 1990.



Kevin O’Sullivan is an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences postdoctoral fellow at the School of History and Archives, University College Dublin.  His research focuses on the myriad links between the West and the developing world, in particular the role played by empire in defining contemporary European identities, the history of foreign aid, and the history of non-governmental organisations.  He is currently researching a history of the Irish foreign aid sector between 1968 to 2002, while his first book, Ireland, Africa and the End of Empire, which documents the influence of developing world issues in shaping Ireland’s role in the post-war international system, will be published in 2012 by Manchester University Press.

O'Sullivan, K (2011) 'History and the development aid debate in the Republic of Ireland', Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 12, Spring, pp. 110-123.