Dublin Convention on cluster weapons comes into force

Yesterday, cluster bombs became illegal over much of the world; in no small part because of Ireland.  The Convention on Cluster Munitions, in effect from 1st August, was adopted in Dublin on the 30th May 2008 at the Croke Park Conference Centre.

Disarmament is something of a niche specialism for Irish diplomacy  – it was Minister for External Affairs Frank Aiken who introduced in the UN General Assembly the resolution that became the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which Ireland was the first country to sign and ratify).

The Geneva track (which included the United States, China and Russia) having stymied in 2006, a small group of like-minded countries including Ireland and Norway decided to move ahead without them – a gamble which met with some success.  Britain elected to join, in the end with enthusiasm.  The United States, which did not take part in the Dublin Convention, nonetheless was influenced by it to mend its ways slightly – giving itself a decade to come in line with it.

Midwifery was by Daithí O’Ceallaigh – then, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.N. organisations in Geneva (including the Conference on Disarmament) – after his retirement from the Foreign Service in 2009, Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs and, as of yesterday, chair of the Press Council of Ireland.

Next month, Ireland will chair the preparation committee in Geneva for the first follow-on meeting – in November, in Laos – of parties to the Convention.  Laos is the country most affected by cluster munitions, and the Department of Foreign Affairs has contributed €4m over the past five years to clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance there.

(Micheál Martin could almost even be forgiven for using the adoption of the treaty to plug Lisbon.)

The rapporteur’s notes are online: Spain and the Netherlands, together with the umbrella-ngo Cluster Munitions Coalition, all would have preferred fewer loopholes in Article 2(2)(c); and for Article 21 to have forbidden military ‘interoperability’ between parties to the convention and countries like America which continue to deploy cluster munitions. Michael D. Higgins argued these points at home in the Dáil debates on Irish ratification.

Incidentally, could I just take this chance to say a very quick hullo to all of this website’s readers and commenters!  I’m a foreign affairs journalist, and will try to pop up every now and again with updates which mostly will centre on Ireland’s role in the world.  I look forward to meeting some of you in the comments.

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  • RepublicanStones

    Hi Padraig. Those loopholes you listed take the shine of this alright. And interoperability between contracting and non-contracting partners reminds one of the farming out of interrogations which the US has been employing the last decade. I doubt very much if the US will come on board without some adjustments to widen those loopholes even further. There is of course another type of weapon which leaves an altogether more toxic legacy….


  • Wilde Rover


    Yes, Depleted Uranium is silly weapon to be using. It will be very interesting to see the decline in fertility in Israel in the next few years as a result of the amount spread around that region, considering practically all adult males in the IDF have been exposed to the stuff. Children of Men comes to mind.

  • Reader

    Wilde Rover: Yes, Depleted Uranium is silly weapon to be using.
    Quite. It has some uses for armour piercing munitions, but that would have minimal application in Fallujah. The report only guesses that it might have been used.

  • RepublicanStones

    Reader, anti-armour rounds are not used solely for actual armour, particularly in a FIBUA situation like Fallujah was. The need to punch through walls and buildings, in what was literally, a fire free zone, means you’d be kidding yourself if you think Uncle Sam kept the those little pointy boys for just proper armour, APCs and tanks etc. Now with regard to the spike in DU releated illnesses and birth defects, I think there is a lot of weight behind this ‘guess’, would you disagree?

  • Reader

    RepublicanStones: Now with regard to the spike in DU releated illnesses and birth defects, I think there is a lot of weight behind this ‘guess’, would you disagree?
    No. If they had found evidence of DU in the area they would have said so. There are lots of possible causes for birth defects in a war zone – chemical effects, stress and poor nutrition, for instance. The last paragraph in the original article gives a few other pointers, too. In fact, it seems that even journalists, normally keen for a good headline, are a little bit suspicious of Busby.

  • Wilde Rover


    “The report only guesses that it might have been used.”

    I suppose time will tell.

  • Reader

    Wilde Rover: I suppose time will tell.
    Or some sort of radiation detector or heavy metal assay would do the job even sooner.

  • Peter Fyfe

    It falls short of a complete ban and with the US opting it it has serious practical limitations but as an Irishman it is good to see Ireland use it’s influence for good in the world. It may be small compared to its neighbour and minuscule in terms of world population but it is actions like these that Irishmen can take great pride in.

  • RepublicanStones

    True other instance cause abnormalities, but DU rounds practically vapourize on contact with a target. Turning to dust, which would also help explain the spike as its remanants travel on the air and can therefore be ingested or breathed in easily enough. I think its a bit of a stretch to suggest stress as a factor given the ratio of Fallujah compared to Hiroshima.

  • RepublicanStones

    Not necessarily, as DU turns to dust on impact, so if the US used even only a few rounds, unlikely to find anything this many years after the siege.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Hate to break the news to some of you:


    And why don’t we see how this hysteria played out:


    Here is one of the assertions that is subject to proof or disproof:

    Mr Coghill says the maximum effect will be reached about six months after the war, and he thinks the first cancers – probably leukaemias – will start to show up about a year after that.

    And our man really needs to read our friends from Maryland:


    The immune system report (disproving our man):

    Results from clinically available measures of immune competence and a panel of phenotypic suggest that exposure to depleted uranium has no clinically significant effect on immune parameters.

    And since our man mentioned the kidneys (more disproving of our man):

    Although the kidney is the putative “critical” target organ for uranium toxicity under acute and chronic exposure conditions no evidence of renal dysfunction was found.

    So, DU doesn’t “wreak havoc with the immune system” and doesn’t seem to affect the kidneys. Radiation wasn’t otherwise the problem at Hiroshima and that’s why the city was reinhabited rather shortly thereafter. The problem was the rather high temperature created

    Lastly, so you don’t all spread hysteria even further, here is the latest report:


    Oh, and note the discussion of radon. There’s more danger in owning a home in America than there is from a DU shrapnel in a friendly fire incident during the war.

    Almost forgot, but for more on the lying bastard fear-monger that he is:

    Although natural uranium and DU are radioactive, they do not appear to be highly carcinogenic. There is poor evidence for excess cancer risk specifically of lung, bone or kidney (the most likely targets) in occupational cohorts whose exposure intensities were greater and of longer duration than the Gulf War-exposed groups.

  • RepublicanStones


    This is also interesting –

    ‘DoD selects servicemen and women to receive testing based on the results of the questionnaire “Post Deployment Health Assessment” (DD 2796).15 There is an assumption inherent in this self-identification process that servicemembers were fully aware of all the times and places they may have been exposed to DU, but even for those who believe they were exposed, testing has been incomplete.’…………The main problem in interpreting the DoD/VA test results is the lack of information about the selection process and time of test post-exposure or post-deployment. If some veterans self-reporting DU exposures are not being tested and if others are being tested more than 180 days after their exposure, the credibility of the DoD/VA results is questionable.’


    It seems a bit reckless of the US to deny a clean up of DU in Iraq when there is no consensus

    US rejects Iraq depleted uranium clean-up
    The US says it has no plans to remove the debris left over from depleted uranium (DU) weapons it is using in Iraq. It says no clean-up is needed, because research shows DU has no long-term effects.
    A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel David Lapan, told BBC News Online: “Since then there’ve been a number of studies – by the UK’s Royal Society and the World Health Organisation, for example – into the health risks of DU, or the lack of them. […] One thing we’ve found in these various studies is that there are no long-term effects from DU. And given that, I don’t believe we have any plans for a DU clean-up in Iraq.”
    (BBC News April 14, 2003)

    Any update on this, or do they still refuse?