Minister hails passing of UN resolution on nuclear weapons

Irish push to eliminate last permitted WMD opposed by US, UK, Russia and others

Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. A commitment to nuclear disarmament was made almost 50 years ago. Photograph: EPA/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. A commitment to nuclear disarmament was made almost 50 years ago. Photograph: EPA/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum


Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in the wake of an historic agreement by the United Nations to support an Irish-sponsored resolution on the issue.

The resolution, which was passed by a large majority, paves the way for an international conference designed to agree a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was tabled by representatives of the governments of Ireland, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa and was supported by almost 60 co-sponsors.

The vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee saw 123 nations voting in favour, 38 against with 16 abstentions. The United States, the UK, Russia, Israel and France were among the countries voting against the measure.


Mr Flanagan on Friday welcomed the UN vote and said it would result in a groundbreaking new diplomatic conference to negotiate a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, with a view to their total elimination.

“Ireland is resolute in its commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We look forward to the contribution which a new prohibition treaty can make to the strengthening and full implementation of the disarmament pillar of the NPT,” said the Minister.

He said the decision to convene the disarmament conference was both an important recognition of the suffering caused by the use and testing of nuclear weapons in the past and an indication by the majority of UN member states that such terrible harm must never be caused again in the future.

“The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of these indiscriminate weapons are well known. We know that there is no capacity for an adequate humanitarian response to any nuclear detonation, either accidental or on purpose, and that the risks of such a detonation are high,” he said.

Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

All of the five permanent members of the security council which have a veto on decisions have opposed the move.

Commitment ignored

Mr Flanagan said nuclear remained the only weapons of mass destruction which had not yet been prohibited and he pointed out that the great powers had not honoured a commitment to nuclear disarmament made decades ago.

“Almost 50 years later, 17,000 nuclear weapons remain in existence and are a threat to us all.

“We share the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross that all states have a responsibility to act. This is a time for leadership, humility and courage. The moment has come to take action and we encourage all states to engage fully and in good faith in the negotiation process next year,” he said.

The conference to take place as a result of the resolution will begin its work in New York next March and the treaty negotiations will be the first multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in over 20 years.

Mr Flanagan said they would be an important step towards the fulfilment of the nuclear disarmament commitments already made under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the 2030 Agenda and the shared goal of achieving a world free from nuclear weapons.

The New York conference aims to agree a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.