Launch of Trócaire Lenten Campaign 2015, Ash Wednesday, Saint Mary’s Chapel Lane, Belfast

18 Feb 2015

Earlier today, Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor Diocese, celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in St Mary’s, Chapel Lane, Belfast. In his homily he reflected upon the line of scripture from 2 Corinthians 6:1 “not to neglect the grace of God that you have received”. Following his homily, he invited Eithne McNulty, regional director of Trócaire Northern Ireland to address the large congregation for the launch of Trócaire’s Lenten 2015 campaign.

Ms McNulty began by thanking the people of the North of Ireland for their continued generosity. “Last year, the Lenten campaign raised over £2.4M in NI and this was matched pound for pound by the UK government. Almost £5M – a fantastic amount of money that will be life- saving and life changing for poor people in the developing world most of whom survive on less than $1.25 per day.

This year the Lenten Campaign focuses on a small village called Sebeye in Tigray in Northern Ethiopia. Because of climate change it is becoming impossible to grow crops in the region. 85% of Ethiopians rely on rain fed agriculture to produce food to eat.   The rains no longer come when they should. January to June are the toughest months. That’s the ‘hungry season’. People survive using a government run ‘food for work’ scheme. One person from each household is allowed to work on this scheme and Ali, father of Mahlet -the little girl on the Trócaire box, does this. Food is also supplemented by eating the fruit of the wild cactus plant which grows profusely in the region. It’s not very nutritious but it keeps people alive. The children seem to suffer most. Often undernourished, they struggle and their development suffers, both physically and intellectually, and it’s hard for them to catch up.

It need not be like this and with the help of the generous people of Northern Ireland it will change for Mahlet, her family and the community in Sebeye. Trócaire is partnered with the Catholic Church there and together with local people, will install an agricultural irrigation system.

The changing climate is a big problem for people in the developing world. Those who contribute least to the problem suffer the most. Northern Ireland emits 8.3 tonnes of CO2 per capita. In Ethiopia it is 0.1 tonnes per capita. As a global community we need to all work together to prevent a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees. Towards this end, Trócaire will be working with the Assembly’s politicians to encourage NI to adopt a climate bill. It is the only region in the UK, and soon to be on the island of Ireland, without such a bill or act. Trócaire are calling on the Assembly to create targets of a 40% reduction on 1990 emission levels by 2025 and 80% by 2050.”

Eithne asked the congregation to help Trócaire lobby our elected representatives towards this end, so that the poorest communities in the developing world can be offered some justice and a fair deal. Eithne concluded by thanking people for their continued support – which literally changes lives.