Sir, – As Ireland celebrates the centenary of the recognition of its statehood by the League of Nations, one of the notable observations from the reports of the time is the confidence and joy this recognition brought to the people of Ireland. Of course, this is not surprising as membership affirmed international support for Ireland’s political independence and territorial integrity following centuries of repression by a very powerful neighbour.
The modern day successor to the League of Nations, the United Nations, will hold its 78th General Assembly in New York on the week of September 18th under the theme of “rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity”. It might surprise readers to know that areas of the world still exist where populations yearn for recognition of their statehood. This year, the democratic island nation of Taiwan will again bid for a seat at the United Nations table.
In 1971, the UN passed resolution 2758 which recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as “the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations” and removed “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” (or the Republic of China (ROC)) who had withdrawn to Taiwan following the civil war in 1949. This left Taiwan’s status undetermined.
In a recent statement, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said, “this resolution neither states that Taiwan is a part of the PRC nor gives the PRC the right to represent the people of Taiwan in the UN and its specialised agencies. In fact, the resolution only determines who represents the member state China.”
While the PRC understood this back in 1971 they accepted that the resolution did not contain the Taiwan conclusions they might have wanted and did not reject it. However, in the intervening years they have ramped up their efforts to distort its meaning and conflate it with their so-called “One China” principle.
Taiwan has made many attempts to participate in UN agencies as an observer, but has been rejected. As China has gained more influence, it has used its position and power to isolate Taiwan and deny its 23 million people a voice in this global forum.
The aspirations expressed in WT Cosgrave’s League of Nations acceptance speech of September 1923 together with the aptly titled commemorative book and exhibition would suggest that few countries are better placed than Ireland to appreciate what it means to be granted a seat at the international table and be “On an equal footing with all”.
As Ireland celebrates this important centenary, I sincerely hope our Government representatives at the UNGA78 will hold true to those ideals and resolutely support Taiwan’s bid for a seat at the United Nations table. As Cosgrave quoted in 1923, “Si tollis libertatem, tollis dignitatem” – if you take away freedom, you take away dignity. – Yours, etc,