Irish Examiner view: Our place among the nations of the world

Let us embrace UN Security Council opportunity
Irish Examiner view: Our place among the nations of the world

The United Nations Security Council. Ireland has an opportunity to challenge bigger countries for abuse of power, however the reverse is also true. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

That old, tongue-in-cheek invocation to nationalists - "Go forth and take your place among the nations of the world"  - lost some urgency this month when Ireland joined the UN Security Council as one of 10 temporary members. We joined, among others, Estonia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines under the permanent members' China, France, Russia, Britain, and America's watchful eye. Our membership will end next year.

As this is primarily about the accumulation of soft power and gathering influence it will be very difficult to quantify what might be or, in time, what was achieved by this participation. Nevertheless, it seems an opportunity to be embraced with enthusiasm and no little commitment.

It is unknown if Ireland will challenge China on its human rights record, America on its institutionalised racism, or Russia on its autocracy-cum-kleptocracy.  Doing so, as any seasoned, well-tanned diplomat would know, would squander opportunity and be a certain way to close doors. Such is power, such in realpolitik.

However, the reverse is not as true. It may be that we will face questions about, say, our mother and baby homes or a more contemporary version of that scandal - today's failing, often inhuman system of direct provision. It is difficult to see how we can lecture others on how they treat dependents while that scandal impinges on so many lives - may be one of the 110,589 population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an equal partner on the security council will.

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