After very successfully hosting the recent visits to Ireland by the queen and President Obama, Taoiseach Enda Kenny's standing around the world, and that of Ireland's, could not be higher.
Recognition by the U.S. president of the Irish people's inherent generosity, humanitarian instincts and commitment to the deprived and the downtrodden has been beamed around the globe. The taoiseach should take full advantage of such an outstanding endorsement.
Since Nelson Mandela retired from public life, no world leader has been prepared to act as a champion for poor nations, a standard bearer for the oppressed.
Enda Kenny has an opportunity to fill this vacuum, by dedicating his period in office to working tirelessly on behalf of the poorest of the poor in the developing world.
He could do them no better service than put Ireland's house in order regarding overseas aid, thereby setting an example to other western donors. The evidence that an enormous amount of aid is being misappropriated is now of such mountainous proportions, western populations, including the Irish people, are rapidly losing faith. We cannot afford that to happen as the poor of the developing world are already receiving little enough without depriving them completely.
Aid has to be administered in an entirely different way if it is to provide maximum benefit. In particular, the bi-lateral method of aid distribution (government-to-government aid) has to be acknowledged as an abject failure and discontinued. We cannot keep channeling fortunes in aid through obviously corrupt and brutal regimes in the developing world, such as those of Uganda and Ethiopia, expecting that it will deliver value for money.
Recently, on Irish television and radio programs, a debate has raged around the plight of carers. Their situation has been negatively contrasted with the €690 million being spent annually on overseas development aid. I believe this debate arose not from any lessening of the Irish people's charitable instincts, but from well-grounded concerns about how aid is being delivered.
The Irish public simply cannot understand why carers and others are suffering extensive cutbacks at home while aid is being channeled through overtly corrupt governments. They want to see accountability, value for money and proof of effectiveness in respect of our aid.
If the government were to introduce proper safeguards, public confidence would be restored, and the issue of overseas aid versus austerity at home would evaporate.
The taoiseach and his government have an unprecedented opportunity to make the world a better place for millions of its worst-off citizens, but to do that they must be prepared, if necessary, to criticize friends and offend recipient regimes.
As a champion of the world's poor, Taoiseach Kenny should:
* Instigate a comprehensive independent review of all aspects of overseas development assistance.
* Cease all bi-lateral/government-to-government aid to regimes that have been shown to be brutal or corrupt.
* Appoint an independent oversight body or ombudsman to strictly monitor and police every cent of Irish aid - to combat corruption, and ensure transparency and value for money.
* Get rid of the multiple layers of bureaucracy that are an impediment to changes in aid distribution
* Dispense with the raft of home-based quangos and groupings that are feeding off the aid budget. Most of which have little discernible connection to the developing world.
These suggested changes to the management of aid would not entail any extra costs to Ireland, indeed they would save money. Most importantly, they would save lives.
At the moment no-one is prepared to speak out consistently on behalf of the poor. The Irish people, given their generosity and sense of fair play, would be extremely proud if the taoiseach and his government took up this mantle.
John O'Shea is CEO of the Irish international aid agency, GOAL.