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Statement by Tánaiste Simon Coveney to the UNSC Meeting on Lessons For Peace

75 years from the End of the Second World War on European Soil –

Lessons Learned for Preventing Future Atrocities,

Responsibility of the Security Council

8 May 2020

Thank you President, thank you Urmas,

Thank you for inviting Ireland to participate in the debate today, it’s much appreciated.

In May 2004, at a historic and moving ceremony in Dublin, , Estonia joined the European Union under Ireland’s EU Presidency.  Exactly sixteen years later, Estonia holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council. You are a small nation, like we are, but you play a significant role in world affairs.  We congratulate you on assuming this important position.

The Second World War started in Europe before engulfing the globe. Out of the carnage the UN emerged, as did the origins of the EU.  The end of the war also marked a beginning of the end of colonialism, helping shape the UN as dozens of newly independent countries took their first steps onto the international stage in the years that followed. For some, as we’ve been reminded today, it took a lot longer to experience the benefits of freedom and democracy and independence. It was tragic but I’m glad it’s behind us.

Seventy-five years ago, Ireland was in the early years of our own independence. We were also heading toward future conflict of our own on our island. Our peace process, that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, is the cornerstone of our commitment to peace and stability on our island and also influences the decisions we make internationally.

I also want to underline the pivotal role played by the international community in our search for peace, including the EU, and individuals such as Senator George Mitchell of the United States and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, both of whose countries are represented on the Council today.

The lessons learned from past conflicts, and the responsibility of this Council, are intertwined.  It is for this Council to act – early and fairly – if atrocities are to be prevented in the future. It is for this Council to ring the alarm bell and to respond to situations where there is a threat of serious breaches of international law being committed.

It is fitting that Professor Timothy Snyder is one of today’s briefers, because of the emphasis he places on the sense of responsibility given to us by history.  Because history should be a critical factor informing the Security Council’s decisions now.

We know from history that the rule of law requires constant human and institutional effort.  We know from history that democracy and the rule of law don’t happen accidentally, but require intensive ongoing care and vigilance.  We know from history that threats to human rights and individual freedoms often happen incrementally, in front of our eyes or within earshot – not only in a distant place or as an abstract concept. 

That is why, even today – especially today, perhaps – we must be alert to the rhetorical tactics of simple slogans that exaggerate difference and drive division.  For this Council to succeed and to assume its responsibility, it must constructively address threats to international peace and security in good time.  

To borrow from Professor Snyder, history should ground us and brace us to do so. 

And, Mr. President, if Ireland has the honour of being elected to this Council next month, this is certainly the path we will follow.  We are a small country, like others, that has emerged positively, and learned, from our own difficult history; it is what makes us who we are.  A country of empathy, with an independent voice and a record of consistent and trusted partnership. And I look forward to working with many of the colleagues on the line today. 

Thank you.

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