Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
What has been achieved by Ireland in our UN Security Council membership? The question I tabled is about the cost of the project. It is an important and prestigious role. It is a role that obviously comes with significant responsibilities, as well as opportunities. I would like to know the costs of achieving that and what has been achieved in terms of our foreign affairs objectives internationally.
The question was about costs, so I will address that issue first and then come back to what we have achieved while we were there.
The costs incurred by Ireland during our campaign for a seat on the Security Council were approximately €860,000. This includes the event launch, promotional material and campaign-related travel and subsistence. These costs compare favourably with those of our competitors. Norway, for example, spent €2.8 million on its campaign. Canada, which we beat in that process, spent €1.5 million. Estonia, which served on the Security Council from 2020 to 2021, spent €1.5 million on its campaign.
Membership of the Security Council brings with it a significantly increased workload. The breadth and depth of the agenda has increased considerably since Ireland was last a member in 2001-02, and this requires a substantial contribution right across the Department. The additional workload is most notable at headquarters in Dublin and at our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. Ireland’s embassy network also plays a central role, engaging with Governments and reporting on their approach to Council agenda items. Staffing has been significantly increased in New York, in headquarters and in a number of embassies. A dedicated Security Council task team in Dublin leads in coordinating our approach to all Security Council and UN issues.
Our tenure has involved some additional expenditure, including on salaries, premises, travel, meetings and other events. In New York, eight additional diplomatic officers, three attachés from the Department of Defence and 13 locally hired staff are working on Security Council issues, and they also cover other duties. Additional staff have also been allocated to the political division and development co-operation and Africa division at headquarters, as well as to key embassies in Africa and the Middle East. The Department’s allocated budget for the costs of Ireland’s UN Security Council tenure is €4 million in 2021 and 2022.
Travel costs include participation by New York-based staff in UN-sanctioned committee visits to countries subject to arms embargoes and targeted sanctions, as well as travel by headquarter-based staff to countries on the agenda on the Security Council and for consultations with other Security Council members, and some travel between Dublin and New York. These increased resources help to ensure that Ireland can participate fully as a member of the Security Council and that we are properly informed in order that we can be as impactful as possible. Resources are kept under regular review.
My apologies. I am seeking to quantify the total number of extra personnel. The Minister may be able to assist me in that regard.
There is no doubt that the challenges faced by the Security Council and by Ireland are enormous. Ireland is a small country and we have to be realistic in respect of the impact it can make through the Security Council. In fairness, however, it is right that we start to analyse the impact we are making, given the extra cost entailed and the necessity for help. What progress has been made on some of our objectives, such as a mine-free world? The Minister made a commitment in that regard. What progress has been made on reducing nuclear weapons proliferation, or even on the issue of Ukraine? I note the Israeli and French leaders contacted Putin to see if they could influence his thinking in respect of driving towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. This Government seems to have a policy of outsourcing foreign policy towards the European Union in recent times. Is the State utilising the leverage it has in this position to its maximum effect?
I assure the Deputy that we do not have a policy of outsourcing at all. We are probably the most vocal small country on the planet when it comes to foreign policy. I challenge the Deputy to name a small country that is more vocal than Ireland is on many of the key issues at the moment. We are about to take over the chair of the Council of Europe for the next six months. We are on the Security Council and an extremely active member in the EU. We are vocal on almost all the UN panels and organisations. If the Deputy is seeking examples of where Ireland has made an impact, he can take that of Ethiopia. Effectively, Ireland was the penholder on that file on the Security Council, ensuring that others noticed the extraordinary events that were happening in Ethiopia last year in terms of violence and a civil war that was developing there. In respect of Afghanistan, we have been, and continue to be, extremely vocal on women, peace and security issues. We were extremely active in trying to assist many journalists to get out of Afghanistan and come to Ireland. We work directly on getting humanitarian assistance into north-west Syria. We are working with Norway on that and hold that file. Of course, we almost got the first ever resolution on climate and security agreed on the Security Council. We got a massive endorsement at the UN General Assembly, with 119 countries co-sponsoring that Irish resolution. To be clear, we are busy, active and impactful.
One of the obvious examples of Ireland deferring to European Union foreign policy relates to a decision in respect of the Russian ambassador. In other words, people were being told that collective decisions are the strongest decisions. When we have collective indecision, however, that is not strong in any way. It brings us nowhere. We have collective indecision in the European Union in that regard.
One of the main conversations in this country while Ireland has had this role in the UN is about whether Ireland should be giving arms to Ukraine. Fine Gael Deputies have used the time to debate how we should shed our neutrality instead of actually using the competency we built up as peace workers throughout the planet. The House has spent time on how we can move towards military blocks. It is important for me to recognise that there have been positives, and I do welcome them, but there is far more we can do in respect of Afghanistan, Yemen, China, Palestine and Myanmar. The Minister mentioned the issue of climate and security. I ask him to do more on that because climate change will be one of the biggest threats to security in future.