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Ireland's bid for a UN Security Council seat is set to be decided today

Ireland faces competition from Norway and Canada for two non-permanent seats on the council.

A Security Council meeting in New York earlier this year
A Security Council meeting in New York earlier this year
Image: DPA/PA Images

IRELAND WILL FIND out today whether a two-year campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council has been successful.

The UN General Assembly will meet later to cast ballots in-person for five new non-permanent Security Council seats.

Mexico and India are guaranteed a spot on the Council as the only countries in the running to represent Latin America and Asia respectively.

Kenya and Djibouti will vie for the only spot reserved for Africa, but Ireland faces competition from Norway and Canada for the remaining two seats.

It would be the fourth time the country has been elected to the council, having previously served in 1962, 1981 and in 2001.

Security analyst and academic Tom Clonan explained that winning a seat would give Ireland a new sense of political leverage and visibility.

“On a diplomatic level, it’s very prestigious to get onto the Security Council for that period of time,” he said.

He also described how Ireland has made major contributions in the past when it was on the council, specifically in relation to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the 1960s and the banning of cluster munitions in the 2000s.

“We have punched above our weight in very positive ways in relation to international security affairs, and the jewel in the crown has been the role the Defence Forces have played in UN missions,” he added.

‘The conscience of our humanity’ 

The council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security and all UN member states are said to be obliged to comply with the council’s decisions.

The 193 General Assembly members will vote by secret ballot without a plenary meeting, at an unknown location, likely to be UN headquarters in New York.

The vote normally takes place during a well-oiled ceremony, with states placing their secret vote into a ballot box in the General Assembly’s main hall.

There were suggestions that the vote might be held electronically due to Covid-19 restrictions across the world, but it’s reported that members expressed concern in recent weeks that the secret ballot might be revealed or that electronic fraud could take place.

In launching Ireland’s bid for a seat at the table at a reception in New York in 2018, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the UN is “the conscience of our humanity” and that “in these troubled and uncertain times, as a global island we want to play our part in defending, supporting and promoting its values”. 

He said previously: “Winning a seat on the UN Security Council would place Ireland at the heart of UN decision-making on international peace, security and development.”

Some of the country’s biggest hitters have come out with a charm offensive aimed at putting forward our case to be on the security council. 

U2 frontman Bono and former president Mary Robinson set out their stall for Ireland at the same launch reception in 2018.

Bono said Ireland’s experience of colonialism, conflict, famine, and mass migration “give us kind of a hard-earned expertise in these problems, and empathy and I hope humility”.

“If you look at the agenda of what the Security Council will be addressing in the coming years, doesn’t it look a lot like us?” he asked.

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Robinson, meanwhile, said that Ireland understands what the Security Council stands for.

“Ireland is a bridge builder which the UN badly needs, with an empathy and an ability to understand the other,” she said.

Earlier this year, over 100 UN ambassadors were treated to a 25th anniversary performance of Riverdance in a bid to convince them to vote Ireland.

Praising the diplomatic effort of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Tom Clonan said that he would be disappointed if Ireland’s bid was to come up short.

“I think we’d be very, very good for it because we’ve got credibility and a track record of positive participation,” he said.

“We’re in a period of destabilisation with Moscow, Donald Trump and now Boris Johnson seeking to undermine and interrogate the integrity of these big international shelters like the UN.

“We know we’d be a force for good in there. I think it’s a very, very good thing if we get it.”

With reporting from Sean Murray.

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