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Minister Flanagan Addresses UN General Assembly on Ireland’s Foreign Policy Priorities


Minister Flanagan Addresses UN General Assembly on Ireland’s Foreign Policy Priorities 

Minister’s address framed under the overall theme of migration and need to address underlying factors including conflict and poverty

- Minister urges countries to implement the SDGs, co-facilitated by Ireland in 2015

- Response to migration crisis requires cooperation by the UN’s 193 members

- Conflict prevention and reconciliation, peacekeeping, disarmament, human rights and development will help in addressing this challenge

- Minister refers to Ireland’s role in UN peacekeeping & the Colombian Peace Process

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., today (Saturday 24 September), addressed the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, the culmination of a weeklong series of engagements with leaders and foreign ministers from around the world.  Following his speech the Minister will meet with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  Yesterday (Friday), Minister Flanagan met with the newly elected President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson.

In his address to the 71st UN General Assembly, Minister Flanagan focussed on the UN’s potential to resolve the current migration crisis, arguing that no country could resolve the crisis alone.  He stressed the need for an approach that tackled immediate triggers such as conflict as well as the need to address root causes.  The Minister argued that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by the UN’s 193 members a year ago, would address the underlying causes of the migration crisis by ending poverty, reducing inequality, and responding to climate change. 

At the start of his remarks, the Minister referred to Ireland’s own history of emigration, stating:

“I am acutely conscious, as I stand here at this podium in the great city of New York, of my own country’s long experience of emigration over several centuries.  Indeed, on the newly-restored lawn just outside this building a haunting bronze sculpture, Arrival, depicts a huddled group of Irish emigrants ready to disembark in New York after fleeing starvation and poverty in their native Ireland.  Our own history as a people forms the enduring backdrop to our foreign policy agenda. That part of our past is unfortunately the tragic present for others. 

“The origins of the migration crisis are complex and diffuse – many migrants and refugees are fleeing conflict and violence; many others are fleeing poverty and deprivation. The vast scale and sustained nature of the movement is, at times, bewildering and threatens to overwhelm our rules based migration systems. It confronts us with a wide array of problems to overcome at the same time – the harrowing violence in Syria; the barbarism of Da’esh; the collapse of order within Libya; the practices of ruthless people smugglers.  Persistent poverty and inequality in many parts of Africa is also a significant driver of mass movement. These are challenges that no one country can resolve alone.  These are challenges that must all be tackled at the same time.  These are challenges that require the international community of nations to work in close cooperation to overcome. 

“Ireland is responding to the migration crisis in a variety of ways – we have prioritised funding humanitarian relief and will provided over €60m in support of the Syrian people in the region, most of it through UN organisations.  We have deployed ships from our Naval Service to the Mediterranean to assist with search and rescue missions.  Ireland is participating in the EU programme to resettle refugees fleeing conflict.  Here at UN headquarters, Ireland has acted as co-facilitator, alongside Jordan, to deliver agreement on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.  I wish to take this opportunity to commend Ireland’s team at the UN, led by Ambassador David Donoghue, and our Jordanian colleagues, for their stalwart efforts over five months of negotiations among the 193 Member States.  Ireland accepted this leadership role at the UN because we know that no country by itself can resolve the vast challenges the world currently faces. 

“In my address today, I will set out why I believe a multilateral approach is the only one that can work, and why the United Nations must demonstrate its capacity to deliver the solutions.  And I will set out how the SDGs, which the UN agreed one year ago following a successful co-facilitation process by Ireland and Kenya, have the capacity when implemented, to address many of the root causes of migration by ending poverty, reducing inequality, and responding to climate change.” 

The Minister referred to Ireland’s strong involvement in UN Peacekeeping and referred to the fact that an Irish Major General, Michael Beary, is now Head of Mission Force commander in UNIFIL.  He also referred to the presence of UN blue berets at the 1916 Centenary parade earlier this year:

“Ireland is strongly committed to its active role in UN Peace Keeping Operations and we are proud of our unbroken record of service extending over almost six decades.  This year we marked 100 years since our “Easter Rising” which set Ireland on the final phase of our path to independence.  The highlight of our commemoration was a parade of our Defence Forces through our capital city of Dublin.  Many of those marching wore blue berets as an emblem of their service with the United Nations.  I take this opportunity to commend all Irish soldiers and police participating in seven UN peacekeeping missions around the world for their courage.” 

He referred to Ireland’s own Peace Process and our contribution to the Colombian Peace Process:

“Ireland warmly welcomes the historic peace agreement reached in Colombia last month following five decades of conflict, four years of talks, and, tragically, the killing of over 220,000 people – each of these deaths representing a horrendous loss to their loved ones.  We look forward to the signature of the final peace accord later this month, and welcome the vital role the UN will play in monitoring its implementation.  Ireland is committed to actively supporting the Colombian peace process and we are pleased to offer whatever assistance we can to the process of rebuilding the country after decades of violence, including through sharing experiences from Northern Ireland.”

The Minister’s speech also referred to the need to protect human rights defenders; to end the persecution of minorities.  On Friday (23rd) the Minister joined colleagues in launching a ‘Focal Points Network’ at the UN to advance the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.


Press Office
24 September 2016

Note to Editors:

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 Goals, agreed by the world’s 193 countries in September 2015. More information is available at: