Taoiseach to launch campaign for UN Security Council seat

Varadkar says seat would put Irish at heart of international decision-making

Winning a seat on the UN Security Council would place Ireland "at the heart of UN decision-making on international peace, security and development," Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking on the eve of a series of events in New York on Monday marking the formal launch of Ireland’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for a two-year term starting in 2021.

Ireland is facing stiff competition from Canada and Norway as the Government seeks a place on the council for the first since 2001-02 embarking on an intensive global campaign up to the June 2020 ballot.

The Government needs two-thirds of voting member states, or at least 129 votes if all 193 UN states cast a ballot, to win one of two seats available to the UN's "western Europe and others groups".


Ireland is a member of the group along with Canada and Norway, two countries with solid records at the UN on peacekeeping and development.

“We will have a tough campaign on our hands over the next two years and we certainly don’t underestimate our competition, but I am confident that by putting our full support behind the campaign and by emphasising Ireland’s unique strengths and track record, we can succeed,” said Mr Varadkar.

The Taoiseach has been joined on his trip to the UN by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. The launch of Ireland's bid at the UN's headquarters in Manhattan on Monday evening will be supported by former president Mary Robinson and U2's Bono.

More than 400 UN diplomats and other guests have been invited to attend a reception on the UN’s North Lawn beside the Arrival sculpture dedicated to global migration, by Irish artist John Behan, gifted to the UN by Ireland in 2000.

Lending a hand to the Irish diplomatic charm offensive, U2 invited UN ambassadors from every member state to their concert at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday night.

Mr Varadkar, Mr Coveney and the rest of a Government delegation, including Ireland’s permanent representative at the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason, who will lead the Irish campaign, also attended.

‘Core values’

The Government intends to play up Ireland’s vocal advocacy of and commitment to peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disarmament and sustainable development as part of its campaign.

Mr Coveney said the Government wanted a seat at the security council “because we believe in a strong UN and we want to be at the centre of it, advocating for our core values”.

Ireland’s candidacy, declared in 2005, forms part of the “Global Ireland 2025” initiative, the Government’s recently launched plan to double the country’s “global footprint” overseas by increasing the number of diplomatic missions and economic representative offices around the world.

Ahead of formally launching the campaign, Mr Varadkar will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s participation of UN peacekeeping operations and pay tribute to 88 members of the Defence Forces who have died on UN service, laying a wreath at the UN on Monday morning.

‘Proud tradition’

The Taoiseach said that securing a seat on the council would “continue Ireland’s proud tradition of international engagement dating back to our admission to the UN in 1955”.

Ireland beat Italy and Norway to win a seat the last time it sat on the council for the 2001-02, a term dominated by the response to the 9/11 attacks, a civil war in Angola and the independence of East Timor. It has held membership on two other occasions: in 1961 for a half-term and in 1981-82.

On Tuesday Mr Varadkar will meet businesspeople and investors at an event hosted by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland at the New York Stock Exchange where he will ring the opening bell.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent