Niall Mellon Resolves Dispute with Irish Aid

Meteor Humanitarian Award winner Niall Mellon has said he has resolved his differences with Irish Aid and submitted a new application for funding.

A €5 million grant given to the Niall Mellon Township Trust by the Government in 2007 led to a public row last year between Mr Mellon and Irish Aid, the body which administers Ireland’s aid budget on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The trust hopes to build 5,000 homes this year in 23 locations, and more next year in anticipation that the grant from the South African government will cover most of the cost of building the houses.

Mr Mellon criticised Irish Aid for acting too slowly in supporting his charity, and said he was frustrated at the pace of decision-making. He criticised officials for keeping to civil service hours even while working in South Africa.

The Minister for Overseas Development Peter Power called the intervention “ill founded”, and revealed that Irish Aid was still waiting for a financial report as to how the money had been spent.

An Irish Aid spokeswoman said yesterday that, since then, they had examined the books and had meetings in December with the trust. Irish Aid is now “satisfied that all funding is accounted for”.

She confirmed the trust had submitted a new application for funding which will “be considered in the normal way”. The next step will be to evaluate results achieved from the original funding.

Mr Mellon said the thousands of volunteers who helped out since the trust was set up eight years ago “all owned a piece” of the Meteor Humanitarian Award he received on Friday night. His charity will receive €100,000 in funding as a result of the award.

He revealed that his call for 500 volunteers to come out and help on the trust’s trip in November was already oversubscribed with 700 applicants to date. He believed the real test of commitment for volunteers was not the week they spent building in South Africa, but the raising of €5,000 they need before they can go.

“It is a huge amount of money to fundraise in the current climate. People have to work really hard to do it. This is what makes it a success,” he said.

The trust has been boosted by recognition from the US Senate last year, which recommended that the Obama administration consider it for funding.


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