Minister Flanagan highlights Ireland’s contribution and commitment to the United Nations25 May 2015
Programme of Events to mark 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership launched
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, today launched a programme of events to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations at a major lecture by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in Dublin Castle.
At the launch were former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, who was Minister for External Affairs when Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955, and UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, Mary Robinson.
Earlier today, Minister Flanagan held a bilateral meeting with the UN Secretary-General, during which they discussed migration, the situation in Ukraine, the Middle East Peace Process and Ireland’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping operations. They also discussed progress on achieving an agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals, human rights and nuclear non-proliferation.
Addressing guests in Dublin Castle this evening, Minister Flanagan said:
“Along with peacekeeping, we have made a distinctive contribution at and through the UN on decolonisation, self-determination and the struggle against apartheid; on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; on protecting and promoting human rights; and on advancing human development.
“We are proud to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ireland joining the UN throughout 2015. The programme includes a series of Iveagh House lectures, an anniversary exhibition in Dublin and New York, a peacekeeping event in partnership with the Department of Defence and Permanent Defence Forces; and an increased engagement with young people, both in schools and through the voluntary organisations of the National Youth Council as part of our first UN Youth Delegate programme.”
Minister Flanagan emphasised Ireland’s commitment and engagement at the heart of the UN:
“Ireland will seek election to the Security Council again for the period 2021-22 and we will continue to make our contribution to initiatives underway to review UN peace operations, peace-building work, the role of women in peace and security, and next year’s humanitarian summit.
“Ireland remains centrally involved in the United Nations. Our appointment as one of two co-facilitators for the post-2015 development agenda negotiations this year is an outstanding honour for our country. It is one of the most important roles we have ever been asked to take on at the United Nations.
“It reflects confidence in our abilities as bridge-builder between major groups at the UN and also in the quality of Ireland’s internationally renowned development cooperation programme. This is a potentially historic and pivotal opportunity to end poverty, reduce inequality and address environmental degradation.
“We will continue to engage intensively on our human rights priorities, even after we step down from the Human Rights Council at the end of the year.”
25 May 2015
Full speech by Minister Flanagan below – check against delivery.
The United Nations was set up after the horrors of World War II by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN – a total membership of 193 countries.
A Place Among The Nations: Ireland at the UN 1955 - 2015
Secretary-General Ban, Mrs. Ban, fellow Ministers, Former President Robinson, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
“Please inform Secretary General agreeable in principle STOP.
Details being settled.
Will wire later STOP”
So ran the cable from the Government, via Ireland’s mission in New York, to inform one of your predecessors, Secretary-General, of Ireland’s commitment to deploy its first-ever peacekeepers to the UN observer group in Lebanon. Just three short years since our young state had joined the United Nations in 1955, we were already stepping up our role in promoting international peace and security through peacekeeping.
Since that deployment in June 1958, we have an unbroken record of service to blue-helmet peacekeeping. Peacekeeping has become the most widely-known expression of Ireland’s support for the United Nations. And in Ireland we are very proud of the courage, commitment and professionalism of our Defence Forces, and also our Gardaí, from the Congo in the 1960s to the Golan Heights today.
We are proud of their protection of the human rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable people; of their distinguished leadership, in providing the Head of a UN Mission on a remarkable twelve occasions. And we are humbled by the ultimate sacrifice of the 86 Irish personnel who gave their lives in the cause of peace.
Because we have a deep conviction in the importance of collective security, we do not hesitate to make our contribution at the sharp end of the UN’s activities.
As a small country on the westernmost edge of Europe, and one with a troubled history of our own, naturally we cherish a rules-based order in international affairs. Since we joined the Organisation 60 years ago this December, Ireland has consequently been one of the world’s most ardent champions of the multilateral system of collective security centred on the United Nations.
At this point, I want to especially welcome our former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, to this event and thank him for his presence here this evening. Liam's encyclopaedic memory and rich store of anecdotes provide a fascinating insight into the period of Ireland's admission to the UN in 1955, which Liam led as Minister for External Affairs.
We are proud to celebrate this anniversary throughout the year and to use your visit and this Lecture today, Mr. Secretary General, to launch a programme of Events and Activities.
This programme includes a series of Iveagh House lectures, an anniversary exhibition in Dublin and New York, a peacekeeping event in partnership with the Department of Defence and Permanent Defence Forces; and an increased engagement with young people, both in schools and through the voluntary organisations of the National Youth Council as part of our first UN Youth Delegate programme.
Reflecting on our 60 years of membership, several distinct themes of particular Irish focus and engagement present themselves. Along with peacekeeping, we have made a distinctive contribution at and through the UN on decolonisation, self-determination and the struggle against apartheid; on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; on protecting and promoting human rights; and on advancing human development.
Several of these issues were articulated in the earliest years of our membership, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was a time when Irish politicians and diplomats of high calibre and vigour skilfully navigated the cross-currents of a smaller, Cold War-divided UN membership. They exerted a disproportionate influence. And they gave expression to our deeply felt values.
Perhaps regrettably, the days of an Irish Foreign Minister spending several autumnal months each year in New York are long since gone. And we have other ways of pursuing our foreign policy, not least as a member of the European Union. And today we are only one small member of a vastly-increased club of UN members.
But our commitment to the United Nations is undimmed; to the values and principles it represents; to its unique legitimacy and universality; and to its family of agencies and programmes that, between them, have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twelve times.
We believe in the mission.
Because the UN has never been more relevant. And the UN has never been more necessary.
There is evidence that, taking a longer view, our world has never been more peaceful, more democratic, more healthy or more inclusive than it is today. And yet the international community faces a daunting array of challenges at the present time:
· poverty, underdevelopment, hunger;
· a wave of humanity - over 50 million women, children and men worldwide - forced to flee their homes, a number unmatched since the second world war;
· the devastating changes brought on by climate change, already being felt in all continents, with potentially catastrophic consequences if unchecked into the future.
· epidemics such as Ebola;
· the stresses of an interdependent global economy; and
· the threat and reality of terrorism;
And precisely because the organisation is indispensable, and because we need it to lead an effective global response to these challenges, the case for UN reform has never been more urgent, nor more imperative. The many and distinguished successes of the UN have been accompanied by notable failures. These have included the Security Council’s inability on a number of occasions to discharge effectively the responsibilities it has under the UN Charter.
A perception of paralysis on the Council’s part in responding to the great political and humanitarian challenges of our time has undermined its authority and, by extension, that of the United Nations as a whole.
The UN may have been created, as Dag Hammarskjold so memorably put it, not “to take mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell”. But even that more modest ambition has not always been delivered.
And yet, although some now question the value of the United Nations – there is no shortage of harsh critics out there – we in Ireland believe in the fundamental value and worth of continuing to work to build a United Nations worthy of its name.
And we believe in our ability to continue to make our distinctive and significant contribution at the UN.
This is why we will seek election to the Security Council again for the period 2021-22.
I contend that rarely have we been as centrally involved in the United Nations as we are today.
Ireland’s appointment as one of two co-facilitators for the post-2015 development agenda negotiations this year is an outstanding honour for our country. It is one of the most important roles we have ever been asked to take on at the United Nations.
It reflects confidence in our abilities as bridge-builder between major groups at the UN and also in the quality of Ireland’s internationally renowned development cooperation programme. This is a potentially historic and pivotal opportunity to end poverty, reduce inequality and address environmental degradation.
We are proud that former President (and former UN Human Rights Commissioner) Mary Robinson is your Special Envoy, Secretary-General, and that she is making a critical contribution to what we all need to be an ambitious new climate change agreement in Paris.
We will continue to engage intensively on our human rights priorities, even after we step down from the Human Rights Council at the end of the year.
We will continue to play our role as an accomplished, trusted broker on a wide range of issues.
And we will continue to make our contribution to initiatives underway to review UN peace operations; peacebuilding work; the role of women in peace and security; next year’s humanitarian summit; and other processes.
Perhaps the single most difficult challenge will be to implement the various outcomes from these processes in an integrated way, in order to maximise the benefits for people around the world.
You have said previously Secretary-General that one of the main lessons you have learned is that “broad partnerships are the key to solving broad challenges”. This is not only a lesson for the UN, but for Ireland too. We must continue to seek to work in a more integrated way across government, and with our partners in civil society, in business, in other governments and in regional organisations, in order to make our fullest contribution.
You grew up in war and saw first-hand the important UN role in helping the Republic of Korea to recover and rebuild.
You innately understand the UN mission, perhaps more than any other Secretary-General before you. At this time of global challenge but also of promise, we continue to offer you our strongest support.
A couple of years ago a new Irish memorial was unveiled at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul. This simple stone plinth marks the sacrifice of up to two hundred Irish-born soldiers who fought for Korean freedom.
Today, under the UN flag but this time with an Irish flash, Irish peacekeepers continue to hold the line.
We believe in the mission.
And so we will continue to do all we can to help realise it.