Dáil hears of State agenda during UN Security Council term

Threat posed by nuclear weapons and proliferation to form ‘fundamental objective’

The threat posed by nuclear weapons to the entire world is closer than it has ever been and disarmament and non-proliferation should be one of the Government’s “fundamental objectives” during its term on the United Nations Security Council, the Dáil has heard.

Former minister Eoghan Murphy also highlighted the “doomsday clock”, created to indicate the level of threat from nuclear weapons with the proximity to midnight indicating how serious the threat was.

The Dublin Bay South TD, who previously worked for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna, said that in 2007 the clock was set at five minutes to midnight.

But “today it is only 100 seconds to midnight. It is closer than it has ever been.”


He also said enough attention is not being paid to the “weaponisation of space”.

Mr Murphy was speaking during a Dáil debate to the mark the 50th anniversary of the coming into force of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, (NPT) and the coming into force on January 22nd next year of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon, which the State ratified this year.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said “the prospect of a new arms race is very real with nuclear modernisation programmes absorbing vast resources and rising geopolitical tensions”.

It was vital, he said, “to preserve and strengthen the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture”.

He said that during Ireland’s membership of the security council, which starts on January 1st, his department would engage “constructively” on efforts to combat nuclear proliferation with a focus on Iran and North Korea.

He also said there is uncertainty about the future of the Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement between the US and Russia, due to expire on February 5th.

“These states have special responsibility as the largest possessors of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s John Brady said there were only five countries that refused to sign up to the NPT of which four are known to have nuclear weapons – North Korea, Israel, India and Pakistan, “nations and regions which represent some of the most violent areas on our planet”.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said “nuclear weapons have never been a deterrent but have always been an existential threat to our very existence”.

He said that while there were about 13,500 nuclear weapons on Earth compared to 70,000 in the 1980s they were now more sophisticated and powerful and “capable of as much death and destruction as they have ever been”.

The treaty was a key part of decisions by countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Taiwan to end “nascent nuclear weapons programmes”.

‘Airports and airspace’

But he said the area of the treaty dealing with disarmament is a weakness and “that is why we need the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said Ireland should “ take a lead in standing against militarisation and against the facilitation of militarisation through our airports and airspace”.

Independent TD Cathal Berry stressed the imperative to “prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors such as terrorist organisations and organised crime. It is a big issue if we consider what a dirty bomb could do if it went off in the city. It does not bear thinking about.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said many Nato member states that legally hold nuclear weapons reserve the right to have a first-strike policy.

Such a policy “exposes the lie the states who dominate Nato are in any way guardians of civilisation, peace or democracy. They are people who reserve the right to use mass murder and terror against civilians in the context of war.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times