Ireland's performance on UN Security Council heavily criticised


Ireland's performance on the United Nations Security Council has received a scathing review from a leading human rights expert.

Ms Karen Kenny, co-director of the International Human Rights Trust, says Ireland has damaged its reputation as an advocate for peace and undermined the UN by failing to press strongly on the council for adherence to international law.

She said a "disquieting gap" had appeared between the stated commitment of the Government to uphold human rights law and the actions it had taken. Ms Kenny's comments appear in the Trocaire 2001 Development Review.

Launching the review, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, Mr Michael D. Higgins, yesterday joined the criticism of Ireland's performance on the council.

He said we seemed to believe we can "mop up after conflicts but we mustn't have an opinion".

Ms Kenny challenged the Government for failing to question the appropriateness under international law of the US-led attacks on Afghanistan; condemn the use of cluster bombs in the conflict; adequately promote alternative uses to military action; be fully accountable for its action before the Dβil.

In her article, she argued that the undermining of international law had made the world a more insecure place, irrespective of the outcome in Afghanistan.

Mr Higgins asked why Ireland had sought a place on the council. Were we not "morally affronted" that UN resolutions could be vetoed by one state (the US) "so that people can be assassinated from helicopter gunships?"

"Countries like Ireland have to decide whether international law applies universally and equally or whether it is just something that will be invoked by the weak. The 130 countries which voted Ireland on to the council were under the impression that we were honest brokers as a neutral country." Ireland is half way through a two-year term on the council.

Referring to media coverage of the present conflict, Mr Higgins said this had reached "a new low". In the Gulf War, there had been "flak-jacket journalism" but things had never reached the state where television stations carried a continuous logo saying "Striking Back".

He singled out for particular criticism an article in The Irish Times on December 12th, which, he said "glorified" war.

In it, Kevin Myers wrote that "what the US and the Northern Coalition (sic) did in chopping the mutinous Taliban prisoners to pieces was in the longer term merciful" and humane and at the same time "intellectually and morally irreproachable".

Mr Higgins said he was not arguing for censorship but this would never have been written 25 years ago. "Shame, shame, shame on the newspaper that writes this stuff," he declared.

Fianna Fβil senator Mr Mick Lanigan said that if the voices of 130 states could be negated by one veto on the Security Council, it might be better for Ireland to say "thank you, but no thank you" and leave. Mr Lanigan said the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee could be meeting "in a back room" as far as the media was concerned. It was regarded as "irrelevant".

Trocaire's review also contains a review of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, as well as articles on debt relief, development and bonded labour.