Ireland waits as UN votes

Ireland's Ambassador to the United Nations Geraldine Byrne-Nason


By Ray O'Hanlon

Today's the day. After three years of campaigning around world, and three months of online meetings and phone pitches due to Covid-19, Ireland is today awaiting the result of a vote by the United Nations General Assembly that will determine whether or not Dublin will secure a rotating seat on the 15-member Security Council for 2021-22.

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Also in the hunt for two seats assigned to Ireland's specific geographic designation - the Western European and Others Group - are Canada and Norway, both heavy hitters in the world of diplomacy, and both members of NATO.

Ireland, by contrast, is neutral ,though the country's record when it comes to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the globe is second to none.

Whether that counts with the 193 voting delegations will soon be seen. A result could be revealed today but more likely tomorrow, Thursday.

Voting is not taking place in the normal way due to Covid-19 but in a staggered rotation at the UN headquarters in Manhattan.

It is a secret ballot so there is a lot of guessing and speculation surrounding the process. Ireland will have to secure at least 129 votes to secure a seat on the council.

Ireland has been a rotating member of the Security Council on three occasions in the past, in 1962, 1981 and 2001.

Over the past three years Ireland has campaigned on the basis of its stances on issues such as climate change, multilateralism and peacekeeping. Political leaders, diplomats, and celebrities such as Bono, have argued Ireland's qualification for a seat.

A total of about €840,000 has been spent on the Irish campaign though this figure reportedly lags behind the totals spent by the Canadians and Norwegians.

Each year the UN General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of a total of ten on the council to serve a two-year term alongside the five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Irish campaign in New York itself has been led by Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne-Nason.

And as the Irish Times pointed out in a report, Byrne-Nason "may have set new Irish diplomatic records for phone and Zoom calls working from home in New York during the pandemic."

The Times additionally reported that since April 1, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon, Coveney, has contacted 72 foreign ministers, dividing his time with calls to Asia, Australia and Micronesia in the mornings, the Middle East, Africa and Europe in the afternoons and the Americas at night. He has participated in 12 video conferences with multiple countries.

Minister Coveney and Irish diplomats based in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, have also paid particular attention to small island states in the Pacific. Tiny Tonga, for example, has a vote that matches China's.