Ireland wins seat on UN Security Council following ‘tough’ contest

Country was in ‘group of death’ with Norway and Canada to win seat, says Taoiseach

Ireland has won a seat on the UN Security Council, in a major boost for the country’s foreign policy credentials.

Ireland secured 128 votes – exactly the two-thirds majority needed to qualify – in a vote at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

Norway was also elected in the first round, securing 130 votes. In a blow to Canadian leader Justin Trudeau, Canada failed to win a seat – the second time it has lost a bid over the last decade.

Ireland’s two-year term on the 15-member council will begin in January and will mark the fourth time the country has held a seat on the influential international body.


Ireland's ambassador to the United Nations, Geraldine Byrne Nason, had been leading efforts to secure a seat on the council in New York, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney liaised with countries across the globe in an effort to drum up support for Ireland's bid.

At a press conference in Government Buildings, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste both said Ireland had “punched above its weight”.

Tough election

Mr Varadkar said it had been a “tough election” and the contest against Canada and Norway made it the “group of death”.

“We are a small country that has a big presence and is a force of good,” he said. He said the fact that Ireland was the only member of the EU vying for the position was a factor, as was our relationship with African and island states and the work done by the Irish Defence Forces in the UN.

“For a small country, we have a lot of influence,” said Mr Coveney, adding that the result showed a lot of countries respected the good standing that Ireland has had.

Both said the €800,000 spent on the campaign was justified, and noted it was half that spent by Norway and Canada.

“It was money well spent to ensure that Irish values and Irish foreign policy is shaping global decision-making for the next two years,” said Mr Coveney.

While Norway had been expected to be elected in the first round, Ireland’s qualification in the first round of voting was particularly noteworthy. Voting had been expected to stretch into a second round on Thursday.

Ireland’s track record on foreign development aid, its history as a colonised country and affinity with other small nations, as well as its commitment to UN peacekeeping, are likely to have persuaded its fellow UN members to support the bid.

Peace process

In addition, Ireland was the only country in its group that is a member of the European Union. Its stance on the Middle East peace process and support for the two-state solution is also likely to have sat well with Arab nations.

President Michael D Higgins, who hosted several events during the UN General Assembly in New York last September to highlight Ireland’s international credentials and track record on climate change and poverty reduction, congratulated those involved in the bid, noting that the campaign “engaged with global issues, such as peace-building and peacekeeping, the elimination of global poverty, the strengthening of multilateralism, and reform of the United Nations.”

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who was born in Ireland, was among those who congratulated Ireland on its campaign.

Goal’s chief executive, Siobhan Walsh, said the result “both speaks to our ambition as a nation to meaningfully contribute to the global community, while representing an acknowledgement by other nations of Ireland’s unique offering to the world”.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times