Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressing the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit at the United Nations on Monday. MerrionStreet.ie photo.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke Monday at the United Nations General Assembly curtain raiser, the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, which was held to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the South African leader.
In his address to the conference, Mr. Varadkar spoke of Mr. Mandela being an inspiration for Ireland’s own peace and reconciliation process.
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Ireland played a prominent role in organizing the summit and led negotiations in partnership with South Africa which resulted in an agreed political declaration.
Mr. Varadkar addressed the summit following a speech by the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The summit celebrates the legacy of Nelson Mandela and seeks to renew the determination and responsibility of UN member states to apply his values.
Speaking in advance of the Summit, the Taoiseach said: “I’m looking forward to returning to the United Nations this week to participate in the Nelson Mandela peace summit.
“This event marks an important opportunity to reflect on Mandela’s legacy. It’s not only a celebration of his life, but also a moment for the global community to see how Mandela’s commitment to peace, reconciliation and human rights, can help us to meet the challenges we face today.”
In his address to the summit Mr. Varadkar said in part: “Side by side with our great friends from South Africa, Ireland was privileged to co-facilitate the work that has led to today’s political declaration.
“With each of you today, I reaffirm that Ireland will continue to uphold the ideals of the United Nations and work with the international community to achieve the aims that Mandela himself worked so tirelessly for during his lifetime.
“Dear friends, this year in Ireland, we mark 20 years of the Good Friday Agreement, which after decades of bitter violence, brought peace to Britain and Ireland, closer co-operation between North and South and power-sharing in Northern Ireland, at least, most of the time.
“The Northern Ireland Peace Process was advanced with the wisdom and assistance of friends from around the world, including you, President Ramaphosa. For this we will always be grateful.
“Inspired by the message of Nelson Mandela again, we should provide a voice for the oppressed around the world. Finding shared solutions guided by shared values like our belief in multilateralism, freedom of the individual, human rights, democracy and protecting our planet.
“We should look to the words of this Declaration as we face the challenges of the 21st century.”
Mr. Varadkar’s speech to the summit also flew Ireland’s flag high before UN members, not least African states, who will vote on rotating seats for the UN Security council in June, 2020. Ireland is bidding for a seat for the 2021-22 Security Council term.
Also in New York, and preparing to deliver Ireland’s annual address to the General Assembly on Friday, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, has a lengthy list of events to attend including a signing ceremony for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
According to an Irish government release, Ireland is one of the Core Group which put forward the UN Resolution which led to the adoption of the treaty last year.
The Tánaiste will also present Ireland’s instrument of ratification of the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which deals with the crime of aggression in international law, as well as engaging in other events which demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to the ICC and international criminal justice.
Humanitarian assistance will also feature prominently in the Tánaiste’s program. He will attend a ministerial level lunch on the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugee and an event which Ireland is co-sponsoring on the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund.
Mr. Coveney will also engage with the President of Kiribati on an event on climate change and sustainable development, and have the opportunity to interact with EU Ministers present in New York. The Tánaiste’s program will conclude on Saturday in Central Park where he will speak about Ireland’s overseas development aid commitments and focus on girl’s education at the Global Citizen Festival, an annual gathering aimed at deepening citizen engagement on global issues.