Clinton: Ireland should be really proud of its generosity

Former US President Bill Clinton tonight paid tribute to Ireland’s generosity in his battle against HIV and Aids in Africa.

Mr Clinton revealed the Irish Government was the first in the world to donate to his foundation, and is still the only country to have peacekeepers on duty every day since the United Nations was created.

The ex-president jetted in to Dublin to appeal to the business community and industry leaders to support Ireland’s struggling not-for-profit sector.

Mr Clinton insisted philanthropy was important in Ireland to fill the gaps that Government cannot meet.

“I hope to God you will never have to live through another financial crisis like this, but if you did have one even less severe you wouldn’t want people starving in the street or going without basic medical care or mental health services or support for their children,” he told 250 guests from the world of politics, business, academia and philanthropy.

“This is a good and noble thing to do. It is in the Irish tradition and you can do something that I would really appreciate.

“You can organise and execute it in a way that would enable other people to learn from you and that’s also really important.”

Mr Clinton revealed that his foundation had struggled to raise vital funds needed to treat HIV sufferers in Africa.

“The first country that offered to give me money for setting this was Ireland,” he said.

“You should be really proud of that.

“Ireland is the only country in the world since the UN was created that has had somebody in some other country trying to keep innocent people alive every single solitary day since the UN was formed.”

Delegates were asked to pledge their support for the ’One Percent Difference’ campaign, which encourages every individual and business in Ireland to give one percent of their time or income to a cause they care about.

The aim is to increase private sector investment in the not-for-profit sector by 60% to €800m by 2016.

Mr Clinton said a large number of people involved in charitably work were meeting social needs in Ireland that would otherwise have to be met by Government at a time of severe budgetary constraints, or would not be met at all.

“You would not be the same country if you just left all those things undone,” he said.

“It is also good for your economy, you’ve got 100,000 people working in that and it has to be sustained.”

The former president was in the Irish capital to deliver the annual Ray Murphy Memorial Lecture at the event, hosted by The Forum on Philanthropy and Philanthropy Ireland.

Mr Clinton warned there will also be bad things that the public purse strings can not adequately respond to, like a natural disaster, and warned Ireland – as an island nation – to wake up to climate change.

“When you’re rolling again with the economy and when you’ve got the unemployment rate down, the last thing you want to do is lose another year or two because of a natural disaster,” he said.

“This is true all over the world.

“I think this one percent thing is a great idea because it can raise a lot of money and it democratises even further because every body and if you don’t have any money you can give one per cent of your time and make a contribution.”

John R Healy, vice chairman of Philanthropy Ireland, said the not-for-profit sector plays an important but under-appreciated role in modern Ireland.

“Not-for-profit organisations provide vital social services to literally hundreds of thousands of people,” he added.

“They offer citizens the opportunity to engage in society through volunteering. It is also worth noting that this sector in Ireland supports 100,000 jobs, which is as many as the hi-tech and pharmaceutical sectors combined, with a turnover of almost €6bn.”

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