Disarmament & Non Proliferation
Achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and promoting disarmament of conventional weapons and arms control are priorities for Ireland.
Minister Frank Aiken signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in Moscow, July 1968. Source: UCD.
What we do
Ireland is committed to working to achieve a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world. We recognise that the spread of weapons of all kinds fuels conflict, contributes to human rights abuses, and hinders development. Promoting disarmament, therefore, is one of five signature foreign policies for Ireland and builds upon Ireland's historic legacy in this area.
From our early efforts at the United Nations in the 1950s which led to the creation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 to our more recent work on the humanitarian impact of the misuse of conventional weapons, Ireland continues to play a leading role in efforts to promote disarmament, non-proliferation and the regulation of new weapons.
Ireland is party to a number of international agreements that seek to eliminate certain categories of weapons, or ensure that their spread and use is controlled. Further information on these agreements can be found in the sections below.
In recent years, Ireland has also played a leading role in bringing the horizontal issue of gender and disarmament to the fore in international negotiations, both in terms of the gendered impact of conventional and nuclear weapons and the need to ensure greater women’s agency in all disarmament-related discussions and negotiations. A recent achievement in this area is the inclusion of a reference to the gendered impact of nuclear weapons, and a paragraph on the need for full and effective participation of women, in the preamble of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
- Nuclear Weapons and other WMD
- Conventional Weapons
- Export Controls
- Civil Society Engagement and Outreach
- Speeches and Statements
Nuclear Weapons and other WMD
Nuclear Weapons / WMD
Achieving a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons is an historic, long-standing priority for Ireland. Motivated by the immense human suffering which would arise from the detonation of a nuclear weapon, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, we are working for the complete elimination of these weapons.
Ireland has consistently been in the vanguard of the move for nuclear disarmament since we joined the UN over sixty years ago. The origins of theTreaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons(NPT) are closely connected with Ireland. In 1958, led by then Minister Frank Aiken, Ireland introduced the first of what became known as the ''Irish Resolutions'' at the UN which eventually led to the NPT. In recognition of this pioneering role, Ireland was the first country invited to sign the NPT in 1968, and it entered into force in 1970. The NPT has 191 States Parties and continues to be the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
In 2017, Ireland played a leading role in the process that led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons(TPNW). Ireland views the TPNW as complementing the NPT, which always envisaged further effective measures on nuclear disarmament. The TPNW includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities and represents the successful outcome of the first multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in over 20 years. Ireland was a member of a Core Group of states, together with Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, who brought forward the Resolution giving the UN conference which adopted the Treaty its mandate. This Resolution came about following several conferences which moved the discourse away from its traditional security dimension and focused on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, giving new impetus for progress on nuclear disarmament.
New Agenda Coalition (NAC)
Ireland is a member of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), a cross-regional group of States committed to promoting progress on nuclear disarmament. Ireland played a central role in the coalition's formation in 1998 and remains committed to its objectives alongside fellow members Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa.
Ireland is a member of the Conference on Disarmament and in August to September 2013 acted as President of the conference.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The International Atomic Energy Agency remains central to global efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and promote the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear technologies. Ireland has chosen not to include nuclear power in its energy mix. However, we remain committed to promoting and facilitating the peaceful uses of nuclear technology within the NPT context and under appropriate international safeguards. We have been a member of the IAEA since 1970 and we work with its Member States and partners worldwide to protect the peaceful uses imperatives of the NPT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
Ireland regards the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as an important means to promote and implement the objectives of the NPT. The CTBT would prohibit nuclear test explosions, thereby drawing a clear line between peaceful and military uses of nuclear technology. The Treaty will only enter into force when all of those countries listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty, which were nuclear-capable when the treaty was agreed, ratify it. Ireland is committed to promoting its early entry into force and calls upon the remaining Annex 2 countries - eight in total - to ratify immediately and without conditions.
Chemical and Biological Weapons
We are not only committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, but are also playing an active role towards eliminating all categories of weapons of mass destruction. Achieving a world free from the threat of all weapons of mass destruction is a longstanding priority of Irish foreign policy.
Ireland has been party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) since its entry into force in 1997 and to the Biological Weapons Convention since 1972. For the past sixteen years, the CWC has made considerable progress towards eliminating an entire weapons category from global arsenals. As EU Presidency, Ireland played a key role in shaping the EU contribution to the Third Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague in April 2013.
Ireland is proud that the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) was agreed at a Diplomatic Conference in Dublin in May 2008. The CCM was the most significant development in international humanitarian law since the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines was agreed a decade earlier. The heart of the Convention is an immediate and unconditional ban on all cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians. Each State Party undertakes never in any circumstances to use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions, or to assist another party in doing so. An important innovation and feature of the Convention are the provisions which address the needs of victims, in line with its similar predecessor the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. Ireland is closely identified with the CCM, and continues to see its successful implementation and universalisation as a priority. Ireland remains committed in this regard; from chairing of the negotiations in Dublin, working as the co-coordinator on Clearance from 2011-2013, to our ongoing support to the CCM Implementation Support Unit.
Ireland was part of the core group of countries which drafted the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (APLC) and was among the first States to sign and ratify it in March 1997. The Convention not only prohibits the use of anti-personnel landmines, but also commits States to assist in the removal of mines from mine-affected countries. Not only does this work prevent further casualties, it also allows land to be released for agriculture and business, directly contributing to longer-term stability and economic development. In 2015 and 2016 Ireland was Chair of the Article 5 Committee, which works to supports states in meeting their mine clearance obligation deadlines.
Irish Aid have given over €25million to demining projects since 2006, including funding for work in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Lao PDR, Mozambique, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The Disarmament Unit also provides funding to the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF Enhancing Human Security) for targeted demining programmes in Ukraine and Columbia.
Other Conventional Weapons
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013 to regulate the International trade in conventional arms and to establish mechanisms to begin eradicate the illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms. The ATT entered into force in 2013 and Ireland ratified the treaty in April 2014.
The ATT covers the major categories of conventional arms, including the small arms and light weapons which proliferate in conflict afflicted states and non-conflict afflicted states with high levels armed violence and very high civilian casualties.
Minister Joe Costello signs the Arms Trade Treaty alongside Ambassador Patricia O'Brien in 2013
The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of specific weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary suffering or that indiscriminately affect both civilians and military personnel, including lethal autonomous weapons systems. It is for this reason that Ireland signed the Convention in 1981, the same year that it opened for signature.
Export Control Regimes
The effective enforcement of export control regimes is a core component of upholding Ireland's international non-proliferation obligations. As a member of multiple disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and conventions, Ireland has a responsibility to ensure that adequate domestic controls are implemented in order to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons. To assist us in meeting our obligations under these treaties and conventions, Ireland is a member of a number of export control regimes.
- The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a group of nuclear supplier countries that was established in 1974. It seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear and nuclear-related exports, governing the transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon States
- The Wassenaar Arrangement was established in order to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations. The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists
- The Zangger Committee aims to assist States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in preventing the export of nuclear-related strategic material and equipment to non-nuclear-weapon States which may be used for weapons proliferation
- The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal political understanding among states that seeks to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. The MTCR seeks to limit the risks of proliferation of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by controlling exports of goods and technologies that could support their delivery systems. Ireland and Iceland will co-chair the MTCR from October 2017. Find out more.
- The Australia Group is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. Formed in 1985, the group now has 42 members.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, has responsibility for licensing in Ireland. We work closely with our colleagues in that Department on applications for the export of military goods and certain dual-use goods from Ireland.'
 Ireland is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, The Cluster Munitions Convention and the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention.
Civil Society Engagement and Outreach
Civil Society Engagement and Outreach
Ireland believes that work in disarmament and non-proliferation processes is more effective when there is strong cooperation between states and Civil Society. Ireland is pleased to work with strong international partners including Article 36, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Handicap International and Reaching Critical Will.
Recognising the importance of rigorous research in disarmament work, Ireland also works in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
Speeches and Statements
Speeches and Statements
Statement by Ireland on the Preamble, First reading of Draft Convention at the UN Conference on a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. New York, 15 June – 7 July 2017
Statement by H.E Ambassador Patricia O'Brien at Gender & Nuclear Weapons side event at UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. Friday, 29 June 2017 at the UN in New York
Ireland interventions on Articles 1 - 21, First Reading of Draft Convention at UN Conference on a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, New York, 15 June – 7 July 2017
Nuclear Disarmament in context - a global governance issue Working Paper presented by Ireland to the Preparatory Committee of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in association with the updated 2017 edition of "Nuclear Disarmament - The Missing Link", a collaboration with Chatham House Vienna, May 2017
Cluster 2 Statement by Ms Helena Nolan Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the 2017 Preparatory Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Vienna, 8 May 2017
Statement on Cluster 1 by Ms Helena Nolan Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the 2017 Preparatory Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Vienna, 4 May 2017
Statement by Ireland at the Organisational Meeting for the Diplomatic Conference to negotiate a new legal instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons leading to their total elimination, 16 February 2017, United Nations, New York
Intervention on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Review Conference, delivered by Deputy Director Ms Rosie Keane in Geneva, 12 – 16 December 2016
National Statement on IEDs at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Preparatory Committee, delivered by Ms Rosie Keane, Deputy Director Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Geneva, 31 August 2016
Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions
Oslo 11-14 September 2012: General Statement by Ireland (PDF)