Ireland is not paying for any votes to get a seat on the UN Security Council, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
He was responding to Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan who said in the Dáil the country is risking its “non-aligned, impartial and humanitarian focus” for a seat on the council.
Ms O’Sullivan questioned the decision to seek a seat for the 2021 to 2022 rotation.
Government Ministers would travel the world for St Patrick’s Day and part of their agenda “will be to secure the 192 votes necessary to get a seat”, she said.
Asking what it would cost, she said: “I’m not just talking about euro to secure the seat”.
In response, Mr Varadkar said: “I have a thick skin but I hope our hard-working diplomats in the UN around the world do not take that the way the Deputy said it”.
He said Ireland had made a valuable contribution to the UN and the Security Council and “we want to be able to do so again”. It was in part a reflection of the aim to double Ireland’s global foot print and “increase our influence around the world”.
Ireland was also committed to multilateralism because the greatest challenges and problems the world faces “are best dealt with by countries working together”.
But Ms O’Sullivan said what she described as “unIreland” decisions had been made recently.
These included the decision, which the Dáil supported in a vote, to join Pesco (Permanent Structured Co-Operation), an EU initiative for enhanced co-ordination on security and defence.
She had been waiting for Ireland’s voice to condemn the sanctions against Venezuela and the threat of military invasion but instead the State joined other countries in condemning president Nicolás Maduro.
It also made the “unIreland” decision to recognise Juan Guaido, who she said was a “self appointed person”.
Mr Varadkar told her Ireland’s decision was influenced by the Venezuelan constitution which allows for an interim president to be elected “should the directly elected president be deemed illegitimate”.
Ms O’Sullivan said she believed the security council had a “litany of failures” in attempts to make the world more secure and a former UN commissioner for human rights had spoken of the “pernicious use of the veto leading to the most prolific slaughterhouses” in countries such as Syria, the Congo, Burundi and Myanmar. “The most blatant recent example is Yemen”.
She said Mr Varadkar’s recent African visit highlighted contradictions where he visited Irish troops in Mali, part of an EU training mission “which could be seen as propping up France’s interests in Mali’s uranium resources”.
He then visited Ethiopia and was “back to the traditional Irish role” of development.
Ireland had a respected voice that “comes from our history, culture and the empathy we can bring to other countries because we have experienced famine, conflict and displacement”.
But she warned: “We are in danger of losing that respected voice” and there are “more appropriate arenas in which Ireland can keep up that reputation and good name not the UN Security Council and not at the price we appear to be paying to get those votes”.
Mr Varadkar said what Ireland did in Mali and Ethiopia was “mutually complementary”.
He continued: “International development is worth nothing without security and security will never last without international development, economic opportunity and freedom for people”.