Established in 1973 by the Catholic Church, the charity organisation, through the support of the people of ireland, has changed the lives of tens of millions of people all over the world over the last five decades, writes Miriam Donohoe


Fifty years ago the Irish people were stirred into action by devastating scenes of famine and flooding in Bangladesh they were seeing on their TV screens. They responded with incredible generosity, donating £250,000 to the Catholic Church to deliver life-saving aid.

This outpouring of kindness inspired the Church to establish an organisation to support people living in the world’s poorest regions. In February 1973, Trócaire was born.

The Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Ireland establishing Trócaire said the aim of the organisation was to be two-fold. “Abroad it will give whatever help lies within its resources to the areas of greatest need among developing countries. At home it will try to make us all more aware of the needs of these countries and of our duties towards them. These duties are no longer a matter of charity – but of simple justice.”

Working on this dual mandate Trócaire – with the support of the people of Ireland – has changed the lives of tens of millions of people all over the world over the last five decades. Its annual Lenten appeal sees the iconic Trócaire Box displayed in hundreds of thousands of schools, churches and home in the build up to Easter.

It has also been vocal over the last half a century in speaking up on behalf of the oppressed and marginalised.
Today Trócaire works with local partners in the world’s most at-risk communities and with people in Ireland to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and injustice – and respond to the crises they create. Together it is bringing about positive and lasting change for a just world.

Trócaire’s mandate was put into action not long after it was established as it campaigned against apartheid in South Africa. The organisation funded human rights movements and trade unions, while lobbying the Irish Government to condemn the apartheid regime.

Years later, Nelson Mandela thanked Trócaire: “South Africans have a long association with Trócaire, who have not only been staunch opponents of apartheid but have also initiated and supported projects in South Africa since 1977.”

The 1970s saw brutal conflict and human rights abuses in Latin America. Trócaire’s response to violations in Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador defined its commitment to human rights work.

In El Salvador, the violent repression of farmers, students and church leaders by death squads acting under President Arturo Molina’s government drew Trócaire into one of the most dangerous emergency-relief programmes in its history.

While conflict took hold of Central American states in the 1980s, public attention shifted to Ethiopia, where famine killed almost one million people in 1984. Irish people donated £11.8 million to relieve famine in Ethiopia and the surrounding countries. The impact of these donations is still felt today.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own