Development Education in Ireland

Development Education

Historical Perspective

In the 1970's, Development Education (DE) in Ireland at grassroots level was beginning to develop. The work of Irish missionaries in the developing world had created a certain level of awareness at home (see Social and Political Context). The establishment of the ICJP (Irish Commission for Justice and Peace- 1970) by the Catholic Church helped to raise issues of development among people in Ireland.

Many of the NGDOs (Non- Governmental Development Organisations) were established in the late 60s and during the 70s, eg. VSI (Voluntary Service International), Oxfam-Ireland, Concern and Trócaire (Mercy). Some of the NGDOs were prepared to make a substantial commitment in terms of time and resources to this. For example, Trócaire, which was established in 1973, made an immediate commitment to spend 20% of its income on DE in Ireland.

At this point, Irish people had begun working overseas as development workers. The Irish government responded to this by establishing APSO (Agency for Personal Service Overseas) in 1974. lt was established in order to promote and sponsor service in developing countries by people from Ireland. Many of these development workers, upon their return to Ireland, still wished to contribute something to development at home. In 1975, a number of returned development workers came together to form Comhlámh (Cooperation). Its aims were to support development workers returning to Ireland and to promote greater awareness and understanding of development issues.
In the 80s, there was a tremendous growth in DE activities. The expansion went in several different directions. There were more courses available. This tapped into the enthusiasm of Irish people for attending night classes in general (in Dublin, at present, there is I course on offer for every 20 adults). In addition, there were inservice courses for teachers being run by several different groups.

Development Education Resource Centres (DERCs) were being established at this time - two in Belfast, two in Dublin and one in Cork. New solidarity groups were formed. They linked Ireland with Nicaragua, Mozambique, Cambodia and Tanzania.

A network for Solidarity groups was formed called the Joint Solidarity Forum. Also a second Twinning project was set up. This one linked Westport with Aror, Kenya. The first one had linked Waterford with Kitui, Kenya. VSI was also creating links with developing countries through their Africa/Asia exchange programme.
There were a wide variety of projects which tried to bring DE to different sections of the population. In the Youth Sector, youth and development organisations joined forces to organise the first One World Week (OWW) in 1985. This led to the establishment of the DEFY (Development Education For Youth) Project in 1989 which works to integrate DE into the Youth Service (see Case Study 2). There were also projects which formed links between Women and Development. A women's network called DAWN was established. A development group for Travellers (an Irish ethnic minority) was founded in Dublin. In the 80s, development policies towards Travellers changed from integration to ethnicity.

There were several new initiatives with schools. Interculture Ireland started bringing African teachers to Irish schools and the World University Service brought Irish teachers to Africa. Concern organised debates on Development themes and there was a project to bring DE to schools using ethnic arts as a vehicle.
There was also a growth in structure to support DE. Within HEDCO (Higher Education for Development Cooperation), a DE committee was formed in 1984. Its focus was on the third level (tertiary) sector. CONGOOD (Confederation of Non- Governmental Organisations for Overseas Development), which was an Irish NGDO structured umbrella body, had an active Development Education Commission. This Commission facilitated a lot of cooperation between NGDOs in the area of DE. It published 75 : 25 - Ireland in a still Unequal   World - a comprehensive DE resource which is in its third publication. In 1986 - a late date for government involvement - DESC (Development Education Support Centre) was at last established by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs. Its focus is to provide support in the design and implementation of DE programmes.

The visit of US President Reagan to Ireland in 1984 was another significant event for those involved in DE. The visit contrasted sharply with the warm reception given to President Kenne y some twenty years previously. Ronald Reagan' s visit created a strong reaction among Irish people who had become sensitive about Anti-Apartheid and ` Imperialism in Central America'. The Bishops were not available to meet him. Thousands of people demonstrated in Dublin, forming a human chain and closing off the city centre. Hundreds of buses brought protesters to Ballyporeen in Co. Tipperary to demonstrate in the village where Reagan's family originated. All of this showed that an awareness had been created about these issues among Irish people which had not previously existed.

Another significant event which created awareness among Irish people was the Dunnes Stores strike, which also took place in 1984. A number of workers in Dunnes Stores (a supermarket chain) in Henry Street, Dublin, refused to handle South African goods following instructions from their union, IDATU. When one worker was suspended, nine others stopped working. These ten young workers went on strike, not to better their own conditions, but in support of people thousands of miles away in South Africa. Their courageous struggle continued for over two years. lt helped to raise the whole issue of Apartheid among Irish people in general and also at a political level. Eventually, the government agreed to ban the import of fruit and vegetables from South Africa - not on Anti-Apartheid grounds but on the grounds of poor labour conditions in South Africa.

Some of the developments in the last few years include the establishment of the National Development Education Grants Committee in 1989. This committee administers funding from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs for DE projects. The Irish Development Educators Association (IDEA) was set up in 1991 to provide a forum for practising development educators in all parts of Ireland. IDEA provides a means for looking at the practice of DE in Ireland and of addressing issues of concern to development educators. In October 1993, a new association of Irish NGDO ' s, called Dóchas (Hope), has emerged. This has resulted from a merging of CONGOOD and the Irish National Platform - which had linked most Irish NGDO's into a European network. At present, Dóchas has 18 members which are all national organisations.

NGDO-EC Liaison Committee: Development Education Group