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.