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Statement by Minister Coveney on the UN adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons


Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney on the occasion of the adoption at the UN of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons leading towards their total elimination

Today is a truly historic day at the United Nations in New York, where a large majority of states have concluded the negotiation of a new Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

I congratulate all of the participating States and civil society partners on this achievement. Ireland is proud to have played a leadership role, together with Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, in bringing forward the UN Resolution convening the Diplomatic Conference that negotiated this ground-breaking treaty. The text adopted today represents the successful outcome of the first multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in over 20 years.

This new Treaty is entirely consistent with the objectives of the United Nations.  The very first UN Resolution in 1946 called for proposals on ‘the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction’. Ireland has consistently been in the vanguard of the move for nuclear disarmament since we joined the UN over sixty years ago.  Indeed, it was the “Irish Resolutions” in 1958 which led to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in recognition of this, Ireland was the first state invited to sign. We view this new Treaty as strengthening the NPT and the shared, global vision of a world free from nuclear weapons.

This Treaty complements the NPT, but it also implements it. The NPT always envisaged further effective measures on nuclear disarmament and this new treaty represents one such effective measure. It is not the only one needed, but it is a step and we know that every journey must begin with the first step.

On the challenging road to a world free from nuclear weapons, this Treaty represents an important turning point. A choice has been made by the majority about the way ahead. Nuclear weapons now join all other weapons of mass destruction, which have already been prohibited.

This Treaty will establish an important global norm and will help us to continue to raise awareness of the risks posed by the existence of these weapons. It honours the memory of the victims of nuclear weapons and the key role played by survivors in providing the living testimony which calls on us to ensure that these weapons are never used again.  It also provides pathways for the accession of those States possessing nuclear weapons, when they decide to join.

Ireland entered this negotiation process with a lot of conviction and a lot of hope. In the words of Seamus Heaney, “hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for”. The Treaty is both timely and essential given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of these weapons, their impact on all of our other global commitments  and, as we know from the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the impossibility of any adequate humanitarian response. It demonstrates the power of responsible multilateralism in action and our ability to change the world, one step at a time, for the good of all. I look forward to the signing ceremony at the UN in September.



Press Office

07 July 2017