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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 19 Sep 2019

Vol. 986 No. 3

Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2019: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2019 is to enable Ireland to become a state party to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW. This Bill will put in place the necessary legislative underpinning to allow Ireland ratify this historic treaty.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the outcome of a two-year process led by states and civil society concerned by the increasing risks and catastrophic consequences of a nuclear weapons explosion as well as by the lack of progress made by the nuclear weapons states on the disarmament provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT. The treaty was opened for signature at the United Nations in New York on 20 September 2017. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, signed the treaty on behalf of Ireland on the first day it opened for signature. As of today, the treaty has received 70 signatures, including 26 ratifications. The TPNW requires 50 ratifications to enter into force. I hope that the passage of this legislation will allow Ireland to be among those early ratifiers.

Ireland is closely associated with this treaty. Ireland took a leading role in the process that led to the adoption of the TPNW and was a member the core group of states made up of Ireland, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa which brought forward the resolution giving the UN conference its negotiating mandate.

I am very proud of the contribution made by Ireland in this regard. The contribution of this treaty to global peace and security was recognised most prominently through the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 to the International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, an umbrella civil society advocacy group which has long been a close partner for Ireland. ICAN spent more than a decade advocating for a humanitarian perspective to be considered regarding nuclear weapons and that aspiration was finally realised with the TPNW. I am further pleased that the specific work of the Irish delegation and our core group partner countries was recognised by the 2018 Arms Control Person of the Year Award for our work in leading the TPNW negotiations.

This new treaty provides for states to fulfil their disarmament obligations under the non-proliferation treaty, Article VI, and affirm their commitment to achieving a world free from nuclear weapons. The TPNW plugs a legal gap by prohibiting the last form of weapon of mass destruction which had not yet been explicitly outlawed. Deputies from across the House share my deep concern about the immense human suffering and environmental degradation which would arise from the detonation of a nuclear weapon, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, anywhere on the planet. The only guarantee of protections from nuclear weapons use is their complete elimination. The ratification of the TPNW is an important step towards the realisation of this important objective.

The issue of nuclear disarmament is one which has traditionally enjoyed support from across the political spectrum in Ireland, and I would like to remind Deputies of the deep-rooted legacy of engagement Ireland has had on nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament became a priority foreign policy objective shortly after we joined the United Nations more than 60 years ago. Ireland played a leading role in the origins of the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament regime, namely, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, which entered into force in 1970. In 1958, the then Minister for External Affairs, Deputy Frank Aiken, introduced the first of what became known as the Irish resolutions at the UN. These Irish resolutions ultimately led to the adoption of the NPT in 1968. I would like to recall the words spoken by the then Minister, Frank Aiken, at the 22nd UN General Assembly first committee meeting on 6 May 1968, which adopted the NPT. His words are as relevant to this treaty, and at this time, as they were then. He stated that the NPT, for all states large and small, was, he believed, an infinitely more effective shield against a nuclear holocaust, than the most costly armoury of offensive and defensive equipment.

The same commitment to multilateralism that drove Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s informed the Irish approach to the historic TPNW negotiations in 2017. The outcome of the TPNW negotiations goes to the very heart of our belief in a rules-based international world order. We live in challenging times, when many of the agreements we have worked hard to collectively reach are unravelling or are being undermined. The Doomsday Clock, updated each year since 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is now at two minutes to midnight. That is the closest it has ever been to apocalypse. The prospect of a new arms race is very real. There has been a worrying decrease in the taboo around the threat of the use of these weapons of mass destruction. There is also vast investment in so-called "modernisation", with talk of more strategic, targeted and usable nuclear weapons and increased reliance on these weapons in security doctrines. Of deep concern, and one of the most dangerous ideas in the current discourse, is the notion that any nuclear weapon could ever be used again, even in some sort of controlled way. This idea is completely unacceptable. As the most powerful and most indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction ever invented, nuclear weapons should have no place in the security doctrine of any state and their very existence threatens us all.

I do not need to recall for anyone the horror visited upon the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who suffered the devastating effects of the only occasions when nuclear weapons have been used in war. Furthermore, people - often marginalised or vulnerable populations, including indigenous peoples - and the planet continue to suffer today the enduring aftermaths of thousands of nuclear tests that occurred in the second half of the 20th century. Knowing what we know now about the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear explosion and the sheer impossibility of any adequate humanitarian response, we must reject the very notion that they can ever be used again under any circumstances. Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev had the insight to agree, even at the height of the Cold War, that "a nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought'. It was true then, and it remains true and even more relevant now.

In a context of global mistrust and a deeply challenging security environment, it is ever more necessary to call on enduring principles. Ireland believes that multilateralism is the key to solving the global challenges we face. We will hold firm in our belief that the equilibrium of the world order cannot be held in place, and is not currently held in place, by either threat or fear. It is quite the reverse. A permanent peace can only ever be attained through respect for the rule of law based on justice. We are consistently told by large states with nuclear weapons that nuclear disarmament is a challenge for them. It is an equally important responsibility under the NPT, now re-enforced under the TPNW, however, for small states with no nuclear weapons and this is a responsibility Ireland will continue to discharge in full.

The significance of the TPNW is that for the first time the core objective of the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be clearly and unambiguously published. This will address the current legal gap. Together with our partners, we will use every opportunity to reiterate that these weapons are inhumane, indiscriminate and beyond any possible legal use. Our focus will be on the weapon and not on the actor. As former the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, puts it, "there are no right hands for these wrong weapons". For as long as nuclear weapons exist, we are all under existential threat.

The TPNW is very much the child of the multilateralism approach. It was built on a framework developed over 50 years and in particular the non-proliferation treaty. The NPT remains the cornerstone of the multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. It is composed of three pillars: nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Its overriding purpose was to work towards complete nuclear disarmament by capping the number of nuclear weapons states and introducing a legally-binding obligation on those states to disarm. The drafters of the NPT knew that this document would need to be built on over time and over the last 50 years the international community has built a variety of supporting frameworks and regimes around the treaty to bolster its provisions. These supporting frameworks are already in place for the non-proliferation pillar through multiple export control regimes and for the peaceful uses pillar, mainly in the form of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. The NPT also led to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, CTBT, and the global norm against nuclear testing.

Despite all these notable milestones, however, there is one pillar where progress on the implementation of the NPT has fallen short. That is the nuclear disarmament pillar. Unlike the other pillars, there are very few supporting regimes for the disarmament provisions. Attempts to strengthen the disarmament provisions have traditionally been fiercely resisted, in particular by the nuclear weapons states. For example, commitments made in the NPT action plans from 2000 and 2010 remain unfulfilled and their status called into question. Some 22 years after being opened for signature the CTBT has yet to enter into force.

We are, unfortunately, now living at a time when progress on nuclear disarmament is urgently needed. While the nuclear weapons states have formally accepted their disarmament obligations, they continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals at the same time. Even more worryingly, the norm against the threat of the use of nuclear weapons has been seriously eroded in recent times. Consideration even seems to be given by some states in the international community to the use of nuclear weapons other than as a deterrent. In this regard, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons gives the NPT some much-needed impetus on disarmament. It is the first new legal multilateral instrument on nuclear disarmament to be adopted in more than 20 years. It is a success story. That is not only because of its ground-breaking content but also because of what it entails in moving toward the fulfilment of the NPT's disarmament provisions.

It gives back agency to non-nuclear weapon states such as Ireland with respect to nuclear disarmament and it addresses the urgent need to make progress.

The treaty establishes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on nuclear weapons activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use weapons. The TPNW also prohibits the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory. In addition to these core prohibitions that implement the disarmament pillar of the NPT, the TPNW makes its own contributions to the multilateral disarmament regime through a number of ground-breaking provisions. The treaty obliges states parties to assist survivors of nuclear weapons testing or use in areas under their jurisdiction, and to undertake necessary environmental remediation in areas under their control.

The treaty is the first international legal instrument to recognise the disproportionate impact on the health of women and girls of ionising radiation from nuclear weapons use. The treaty also promotes the equal participation in the treaty's work by women and men and includes a provision on disarmament education. Ireland was a strong advocate for these provisions during the treaty negotiations, in line with our consistent support for gender mainstreaming in disarmament negotiations and policies. Ireland's engagement with the treaty negotiations also reflected our principled position on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, respect for human rights and the promotion of civil society voices.

I am happy to acknowledge that the TPNW is reflective of the breadth of participation in the negotiations. States large and small from all parts of the world were able to participate. Civil society and academia were very valuable contributors. Most importantly, the drafting process benefited from hearing crucial testimony from survivors of nuclear weapons testing and use. The result of these views and experiences is an inclusive and innovative treaty, which acknowledges that we all have a stake in achieving nuclear disarmament.

The treaty is not without its detractors. While a large majority of UN member states voted in its favour, the nuclear weapons states and many of their military allies chose not to participate in the negotiations. This was regrettable and Ireland consistently called on them to join the negotiations and participate in good faith. Ireland does not agree with their view that nuclear disarmament must wait until an ideal security environment is reached. Rather, the opposite is true; the retention of nuclear weapons and, in particular, the threat of a renewed arms race is itself a driver of insecurity and risk, while nuclear disarmament is an enabler of an improved security environment.

Despite this opposition from some quarters, the TPNW represents the best hope in decades for multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament, an issue more pressing than ever. The TPNW provides a framework for disarmament, and by stigmatising and delegitimising nuclear weapons it may strengthen calls for disarmament in those countries that possess nuclear weapons. I am also aware of national debates being undertaken in some other neutral states and I hope Ireland can provide leadership and influence through our own ratification.

As well as including some innovative elements, the core of the treaty follows the model of other similar weapons prohibitions. With this in mind, the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2019 is likewise modelled on similar Irish legislation. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure Ireland will be in a position to meet all its obligations as a state party to the treaty. The requirement for states to adopt national measures to implement the treaty is set out in Article 5.1 and Article 5.2 of the TPNW. The Bill represents Ireland's national measures under the treaty and was developed in consultation with other Departments.

Section 1 of the Bill defines certain terms for the purposes of the Bill. Sections 2 and 3 create the offences. Section 2 creates criminal offences for specified nuclear weapon activities. It makes it an offence for a person to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer or receive the transfer of a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device. It also makes it an offence to station, install or deploy a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device, or to use or threaten to use them. In addition, section 2 provides that a person who assists, encourages or induces the commission of an offence shall also be guilty of an offence and that a person who seeks or receives assistance to commit an offence shall be guilty of an offence.

Section 3 provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction in respect of acts committed outside the State in specified circumstances. These circumstances include the commission of an offence on board an Irish ship, on board an aircraft registered in the State, or where the person is a member of the Defence Forces. Section 4 provides for penalties for the commission of offences under sections 2 and 3. A person who is found guilty of an offence will be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine, imprisonment for life or such a lesser term as the court may determine, or both. Section 5 applies the rule against double jeopardy and is a standard clause. Section 6 clarifies offences as they relate to bodies corporate. Section 7 sets out the Short Title of the Bill and contains a commencement clause.

Ireland's ratification of the treaty would be consistent with our long-standing foreign policy priority on nuclear disarmament and our position as a key proponent of multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Achieving a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons is a long-standing priority of the Irish people, who take pride in our historic role and who ask us to continue to live up to our great legacy in this field. I ask all Members of the House to support the Bill in the best interests of disarmament, global security and humanity. I commend the Bill to the House.

Fianna Fáil supports the Bill, the purpose of which is to enable Ireland to become a state party to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty prohibits participation in a range of activities relating to the transfer, development and use of nuclear weapons.

Ireland has a long history in working towards the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and Fianna Fáil is proud of our country's efforts in this regard. In 1958, led by the then Minister, Frank Aiken, Ireland introduced the first of what became known as the Irish resolutions at the UN, which eventually led to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, which has become the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament. The NPT is the most widely recognised agreement relating to nuclear disarmament and arms control among 189 states parties. Since then, Ireland has continued to advocate for the elimination of nuclear weapons, recognising the security, humanitarian and gendered threat that they pose.

Unfortunately, nuclear weapons continue to pose a serious threat to society and the environment. The recent decision of the United States administration to terminate the long-standing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the Administration's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal last year are a cause of grave concern. In addition, Iran's subsequent breaching of the nuclear deal and limits on uranium stockpiles underscores increased tension between nuclear possessing states and the need for ongoing efforts to ban nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the first multilateral treaty relating to nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years and is one that Fianna Fáil wholeheartedly supports. Global disarmament is one of the UN's oldest goals. The first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in January 1946 called for control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes and the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.

In the 1950s, Frank Aiken, a Fianna Fáil Minister for External Affairs, led the charge at international level to try to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. His efforts helped to bring about the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty. It grants the five nuclear-weapon states recognised by the NPT, namely, China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, the exclusive right to possess nuclear arsenals but simultaneously obliges them to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. Moreover, signatories commit to work on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. Unfortunately, the aim of global nuclear disarmament, first declared in 1946 and reiterated since, has not been achieved. Even though global stocks of nuclear weapons are at their lowest level in more than 50 years, there are still an estimated 15,400 nuclear weapons worldwide.

The overall number of nuclear weapons worldwide has decreased from a peak of 70,000 in the mid-1980s. However, all states with nuclear weapons are currently investing vast sums in modernising their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, raising fears of a new arms race. Renata Dwan, the director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, indicated in May that all states with nuclear weapons have modernisation programmes under way and that the risk of nuclear weapons being used is at its highest since the Second World War. This is deeply concerning and there needs to be a concerted effort to minimise the risk of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose.

Deteriorating relationships between states that possess nuclear weapons, coupled with dangerous new capabilities and technologies are a cause of grave concern and must be addressed. Fianna Fáil is committed to seeking a safer world and the promotion of international stability. To this end, we are committed to the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. We would encourage nuclear armed states to reduce their arsenals and to simultaneously increase predictability and mutual confidence between armed states in order to reduce risk. Fianna Fáil also calls for greater transparency from states on the nuclear weapons they possess and the concrete measures they have taken in the field of nuclear disarmament.

Fianna Fáil welcomes Ireland's efforts to highlight the gendered nature of the impacts of nuclear weapons. Ireland has pushed for this to be seriously considered and has highlighted evidence that while the detonation of one or more nuclear weapons would cause massive death and injury to all, the evidence is clear that, over the longer term, of those who are exposed to ionising radiation from such a detonation, women and girls have a far higher risk of developing cancer than men or boys. Ireland's efforts to give this humanitarian aspect of nuclear weapons more attention are to be commended are supported by Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil supports the CTBT, which was adopted at the UN General Assembly in 1996. While all EU member states have ratified the CTBT and are abiding by the obligations it lays down, we are concerned that the treaty is not yet in force. We urge all states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT without any preconditions or further delay. The states that have not yet ratified the treaty are China, Egypt, Israel, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Iran and the United States.

Fianna Fáil supports Ireland's membership of the New Agenda Coalition, 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, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa. Ireland is also a member of the Conference on Disarmament and in August to September 2013 acted as president of the conference.

We are happy to support the swift passage of the Bill.

Tacaíonn mise leis, agus fáiltíonn mo pháirtí roimh an mBille um Thoirmeasc ar Airm Núicléacha 2019. Táim den tuairim go nglacfar leis d'aon ghuth sa Teach seo agus sa Seanad. Tá súil agam nach seasfaidh aon dhuine sna hinstitiúidí seo i gcoinne an Bhille seo agus an fáth gur cuireadh os ár gcomhair é. Tugann an Bille seo an deis d'Éirinn a bheith ina pháirtí de chonradh na Náisiún Aontaithe um thoirmeasc ar airm núicléacha. Déanann sé forálacha an chonartha sin dleathach sa Stát. Is gá dúinn an domhan a shaoradh ó airm núicléacha. Ba chóir dúinn é sin a chothú. Ba chóir go ndéanfaimis cinnte, ag an am céanna, go saoródh an domhan ó airm ceimice agus airm ollscriosta. Ba chóir go leanfaidh Éire a bheith chun tosaigh agus ag tabhairt ceannaireachta i ngnéithe den dí-armáil agus dímhíleatú timpeall an domhain, mar atá déanta againn go dtí seo. Tréaslaím leis an Aire Stáit sa chás seo. Tá sé chun tosaigh agus rinne sé cinnte de go mbeadh an Bille seo os ár gcomhair chomh tapa is atá sé tar éis síniú an chonartha dhá bhliain ó shin. Go minic tógann sé na blianta sula shroicheann conarthaí idirnáisiúnta urlár an Tí seo. Uaireanta ní thagann siad ar chor ar bith. Sa chás seo, tá an Rialtas tar éis déanamh cinnte de go mbeadh sé os ár gcomhair inniu.

Chomh maith sin, níor chóir go ndéanfaimis dearmad ar dóibh siúd a fuair bás nó ar gortaíodh iad nuair a baineadh úsáid as buamaí núicléacha timpeall an domhain. Déanaim tagairt go háirithe don slad sa tSeapáin ag deireadh an Dara Cogadh Domhanda agus don damáiste a rinneadh don timpeallacht leis an slad sin. Ba chóir go ndéanfaimis cinnte de go dtuigeann an pobal in Éirinn, agus mórthimpeall an domhain, go bhfuil muid ag cosaint na nglúnta atá romhainn nuair a achtaíonn muid leithéidí an Bhille seo agus nuair a thugann muid tacaíocht dóibh.

Arís, molaim ní hamháin an Rialtas, ach gach duine atá ceangailte leis an obair chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeadh an conradh seo os ár gcomhair. Níl mé chomh soineanta chun creidiúint go síneoidh gach uile thír an conradh seo, ach measaim go gcuireann sé leis na dlíthe idirnáisiúnta agus leis an mbrú ar na tíortha a bhfuil airm núicléacha fós acu. Tugann sé ardú meanman do na tíortha agus do na daoine atá tar éis feachtas a dhéanamh i gcoinne na slí inar fhás an t-armlón núicléach timpeall an domhain ó dheireadh an Dara Cogadh Domhanda ar aghaidh.

Sinn Féin supports and welcomes the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill. I imagine that it will receive the unanimous support of this House and the Seanad. The Bill will enable Ireland to become a state party to the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and will give effect to the provisions of the treaty in Irish law. The treaty prohibits participation in a range of activities relating to the transfer, development and use of nuclear weapons. As I said as Gaeilge, this is welcome and something every country should agree to.

Nuclear weapons threaten the very existence of the human race and life on this planet. People have become mobilised in recent times over concern for the very existence of life on the planet because of climate change. The use of nuclear weapons in one day could bring that about much quicker than many people have contemplated for many years. The effects of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are forgotten by some, hopefully not most. Some people have a conspiracy theory about it. In some ways, new generations have not fully seen the effects. Those effects should be brought home to every schoolchild and every part of society. Once a year, the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament holds a commemoration for those who died because of the use of nuclear weapons. People need to be reminded of the full scale of devastation that nuclear weapons can bring about. We need to create a world free from nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Ireland must be a global leader in demilitarisation and disarmament, as it has been in the past. In this debate we should commemorate and remember all the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons. Two nuclear weapons have been used in war. They were the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military in 1945. These two bombs killed 120,000 civilians and flattened both cities. They have had a devastating effect on many generations since. The bombs were deployed to kill as many civilians as possible. This was a war crime and its effects are still felt today.

It should never have happened and the deployment of nuclear weapons should have ended there. Regrettably the opposite happened. Throughout the Cold War we saw a massive proliferation of nuclear weapons. This was and remains an existential threat to humanity. Nuclear weapons have been detonated on over 2,000 occasions for testing purposes and demonstrations. This has created huge environmental damage which we do not fully appreciate or understand. Maybe future generations will be able to calculate the full effect of that damage. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that in 2017 there were approximately 14,465 nuclear weapons in the world, 14,465 Hiroshimas. Think of all those weapons going off at one time. That is what a nuclear war would entail. They all need to be destroyed and put beyond use.

The cornerstone of international efforts to begin nuclear disarmament is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as the NPT. This divided countries into nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. The NPT provides for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons for countries without nuclear weapons and creates obligations on countries with nuclear weapons to negotiate an agreement leading to complete verifiable nuclear disarmament. Ireland has been at the forefront of developments in relation to nuclear disarmament and it was one of the first signatories of the NPT. This is worthy of remembrance and a proud moment in Irish history.

However, the NPT also has significant weaknesses. It allowed the USA, Britain, Russia, France, and China to keep their nuclear arsenals and cemented them as legitimate nuclear weapons holders. No country should legitimately or legally be allowed to stock, develop or use nuclear weapons. The NPT also failed to stop India, Pakistan, South Africa, Israel and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. South Africa thankfully destroyed its nuclear weapons arsenal when the apartheid regime was coming to an end. Others should follow its lead. Additionally, the NPT has been used and abused for political means. Two nuclear states, the USA which has signed it, and Israel, which has not signed it and continues to lie and deny its nuclear weapons programme, forcibly stopped Iran's attempts to develop nuclear technology for civilian purposes, which is its right under international law. Essentially Iran, a signatory of the NPT, was stopped from developing nuclear technology for civilian purposes by countries that have nuclear weapons and those who have refused to sign the NPT.

The years of sanctions on Iran, despite it opening up its nuclear technology and nuclear sites to international investigation, have done significant damage to the NPT among countries which have signed and abided by it. This is especially the case with the hypocrisy from Israel, the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East. A deal was correctly done in 2015 to lift sanctions and allow Iran its right to develop nuclear technology for civilian purposes but the Trump Administration recklessly tore up this progressive and positive agreement under pressure from the Israeli Government.

To date 70 countries have signed the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and 26 states have ratified or acceded to it. I hope Ireland will be the twenty-seventh because I cannot see anybody in these Houses objecting to it. In order to come into effect, signature and ratification by at least 50 countries are required. When he is wrapping up can the Minister of State say how many countries are going through the process now so that we will have some idea when we have ratified and acceded to it that there are another 23 who would quickly come in too and it would take full effect, having been ratified by 50?

I welcome the fact that this treaty provides for extensive prohibitions relating to the development, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring or receiving control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The preamble of the treaty sets out some of the general principles and policies. It specifically acknowledges the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. This is very welcome and it builds on the increasing focus on how women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict and the historic UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Article 1 of the treaty sets out a comprehensive list of prohibited activities in respect of nuclear weapons. This includes prohibitions on activities relating to the development, production, use or threat of use, testing, transfer and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Article 4 sets out the disarmament requirements of nuclear weapon possessing states.

I also want to draw attention to Article 6 which concerns victim assistance and environmental remediation. Article 6(1) provides that state parties must provide victim assistance to individuals under their jurisdiction who have been affected by nuclear weapons use or testing. Such assistance should include age and gender sensitive assistance and provide for the social and economic inclusion of victims. Article 6(2) requires state parties to take remediation measures in respect of areas within their jurisdiction which have been contaminated by activities relating to nuclear weapons testing or use. This is important considering the huge human suffering and environmental damage that the use and testing of nuclear weapons have created.

Those articles are key to the environmental rehabilitation of the islands or nation states that have allowed the testing or that have been forced or bullied into that by the US in particular but also by China and Britain among other countries. They are also key to an acknowledgement of and financial support for the victims and whole communities who have suffered the consequences, some of whom were moved off the islands to allow for destruction by these weapons. Unlike the NPT, for nuclear armed states joining this treaty, they will have a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of their nuclear weapons programmes.

The treaty is therefore a well-written and important one in the fight for nuclear disarmament, but it has yet to get the international buy-in that it deserves and needs. We hope that it will well exceed the minimum buy-in required. It continues to be strongly opposed by countries that possess nuclear weapons. Not only do they oppose the treaty, but they are modernising their nuclear arsenals and many Cold War bilateral treaties between the USA and Russia have been rubbished or are severely under threat. The slow pace of developments within the NPT framework in relation to nuclear disarmament shows just how important this treaty is.

In response to the treaty three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the USA, Britain, and France, released a joint press statement in which they argue against this treaty and nuclear disarmament. They said that in their opinion this treaty does not contribute to the development of international law. That statement is contrary to the development of international law. Unsurprisingly, all three of them have significant nuclear arsenals. There is something fundamentally wrong with the UN system when all five permanent members of the UN Security Council have huge amounts of nuclear weapons.

In conclusion, I again state my support for this treaty, for Ireland becoming a signatory and for this Bill to give effect to the provisions of the treaty in Irish law. While the treaty is not binding on states which are not a party to it and we have a long race to run until we reach full global nuclear disarmament, this treaty remains an important step in achieving nuclear disarmament.

In parallel with support for the treaty, the Government should stop its erosion of Irish neutrality and oppose the further militarisation of the EU. It is not good enough to oppose nuclear weapons while we remain part of NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace, aligning ourselves with countries that have snubbed their noses at the achievement of nuclear disarmament. We need to look into our own souls to see what steps we can take to prevent the further militarisation of Europe. We cannot on the one hand chastise countries in Europe that stockpile and develop nuclear weapons while on the other hand join EU battle groups with those same countries and silently move towards creating a standing EU army with the very countries that hold dearly to the weapons of mass destruction that are nuclear weapons.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important matter on behalf of the Labour Party, which wholeheartedly supports the 2017 international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, just as we have supported previous international treaties and efforts to promote the decline in the production and stockpiling of these weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the nuclear weapon ban treaty, is the first legally binding international agreement comprehensively to prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

The treaty can work in parallel with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which has acted as a bulwark against mass nuclear weapon proliferation for nearly 50 years. The latter treaty, however, is showing its age, and we need further impetus towards non-proliferation and, ultimately, full nuclear disarmament. The hearing of the Bill is timely, given President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which has raised fears of a new arms race. Previously faint memories of Cold War tensions return to our minds, in a new and increasingly volatile international picture. The threat of nuclear conflict seems to be increasing as instability becomes the de facto nature of global security. There is now a real and ever present danger of nuclear escalation, as exemplified by the recent Kashmir crisis between two of the world’s largest nuclear powers, namely, India and Pakistan. Likewise, ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East are a constant cause of concern, not only for the surrounding regions but for the entire world due to the potentially devastating consequences of a nuclear conflict.

In this context, Ireland’s continued leadership in the prohibition of nuclear weapons is necessary and welcomed by the Labour Party. Ireland is viewed internationally as a distinguished and credible advocate for nuclear disarmament and a supporter of non-proliferation. During the Cold War, Ireland was a progressive voice in the international sphere for disarmament. While superpowers stockpiled vast nuclear arsenals, and other states retained nuclear weapon programmes or continued to develop secret ones, Ireland worked in the multilateral forum of the United Nations to rid the world of this scourge.

Ireland has consistently punched above its weight on the nuclear issue. Through Frank Aiken’s Irish resolutions in the 1950s and 1960s, the formation of the New Agenda Coalition in 1998, to the skilled diplomacy of the Irish delegation that led to a reaffirmation of the Middle East resolution at the 2010 NPT review conference, Ireland has played a positive role. It is an area where Ireland’s international reputation remains strong and credible, and is proof that a small but independent, principled and neutral country can significantly advance the cause of humanity. Ireland needs to remain a strong voice for international nuclear disarmament and a vocal critic of nuclear proliferation. This means we must not only criticise rogue states for pursuing nuclear weapon programmes but we should ask difficult questions of our allies that drag their heels on nuclear disarmament. In particular, I note the opposition of NATO members, which include the US and most of our EU partners, which have unwisely opposed the treaty. Again, this highlights the necessity for Irish neutrality, which the Government has sought to undermine at every opportunity.

The State should never allow itself to be put in a position where it is pressurised, by way of membership of an intergovernmental military alliance, whether NATO or PESCO, to oppose nuclear proliferation. We must also remain a strong advocate for rigorous inspection programmes of states that pursue nuclear power. If a state has a peaceful nuclear programme, it needs to allow full-scale International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. There should be no exceptions. I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to condemn those countries that continue to oppose the treaty and once again to reassert our position of disarmament and non-proliferation.

The debate seems to follow on from the point I was making earlier during Leaders' Questions about the agenda of increasing militarisation and securitisation in Europe. As vice chairperson of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have had the opportunity to attend some of the Common Defence and Security Policy meetings in Europe. There is no doubt that defence is a growing concern because of the increased worries or threats that certain countries face, and whether they are perceived or actual is another matter. The Baltic countries, for example, fear their big neighbour wanting to take back what was once under their control. Georgia has fears over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while there are fears for Ukraine and its difficulties. There is conflict in many other parts of the world, such as in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and countries in Africa, while there are tensions with Iran and with North Korea. Within that volatile mix there is the danger of certain countries having nuclear weapons. I acknowledge that it is a cliché but it seems that more and more often attack is seen as the best form of defence. It is a worrying time.

Nevertheless, the majority of us seem to agree on the need for a world free from nuclear weapons. In January 2019, Senator Norris and I endorsed the Basel Appeal on Disarmament and Sustainable Security, which was an open letter to world leaders in the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, as well as to parliamentary committees and the Secretary General of NATO. In the letter, we quoted from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which highlighted the failure of world leaders to deal with the looming threat of nuclear war and the increasingly high risk of a nuclear exchange, whether by accident, miscalculation, conflict escalation or intent. The letter welcomed the adoption by the UN of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but expressed concern about the deteriorating security environment in Europe and internationally because of the erosion of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the US withdrawing from the joint comprehensive plan of action, the further development and modernisation of nuclear weapons, and what the letter's authors called provocative war games and nuclear threat postures. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was the historic agreement between the US and the Soviet Union, has unravelled. The letter called on the Russian Duma and the US Congress to refuse to authorise or allocate funding for developing or deploying weapons that might violate the treaty. There was also a call on NATO to reaffirm its opposition to any deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe. The New START treaty, about which there are concerns that it may be undermined by current conflicts, is set to expire in February 2021 and there is a need to expand it further into the 2020s.

There is always a danger of nuclear weapons being used by accident or miscalculation, which makes all the more urgent the need for countries, especially the US and Russia, and NATO to reaffirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be launched. They must resile from their high operational readiness to use nuclear weapons. There is a famous quote from Albert Einstein: "I know not what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." There were two World Wars in the previous century, followed by a Cold War and an Iron Curtain, and there were many wars of ethnicity and civilisation throughout the world.

On the other side was the hope that came from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Everybody can agree there is a fear that a conflict could escalate into a nuclear war but there are a number of ironies. One is the attitude of the United States towards nuclear disarmament. The United States argues that nations it sees as "rogue states" should be stopped at all costs from gaining a nuclear threat. Nevertheless, the only sovereign state to use atomic weapons has been the United States, with devastating consequences that are still being felt today. Another irony concerns arms in general. I am always struck by how NATO countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany sometimes come out in support of nuclear prohibition yet they have an arms industry that sells arms to regimes that are causing conflicts today. Yemen is the example that immediately springs to mind. The need for nuclear prohibition is about stopping the threat of wholesale destruction but the bombing and maiming of people with smaller munitions over years is somehow not seen as the same wholesale destruction. We need a detailed debate around arms sales in general as there is much hypocrisy at play within geopolitics.

The Bill is welcome and I hope it is supported. As a non-aligned and mainly neutral country - although there are concerns about our status in that regard - Ireland should have a stronger voice in the wider debate around arms and the sale of arms to countries with little regard for international law and human suffering in particular. The western media will always channel the nuclear prohibition debate between bogeyman states like North Korea and Iran, portraying them as unstable and unpredictable and which should never therefore be capable of using nuclear weapons or enriching uranium. There is nothing about the track record of countries with established nuclear capability. Israel, for example, disregards international law by continuing to build settlements. We can also look at what has been happening in India and Pakistan, as well as in the United States. A leaked memorandum from some months ago indicates the United States was thinking of invading Venezuela some time ago.

The goal of nuclear weapons prohibition is to stop states obtaining nuclear capabilities but there is just as much need to debate the states that already have nuclear capabilities and what they could do. Going back to 1968, for example, fewer than 20 countries negotiated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It is recognised that five countries - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - had already acquired nuclear arsenals at the time. Those five countries committed to the process of nuclear disarmament and other countries accepted obligations not to acquire or try to acquire nuclear weapons or programmes. The treaty came into legal force in 1970, with approximately 60 members joining. However, in order to encourage non-nuclear countries to sign the 1968 treaty, it actively promoted the use of nuclear technologies for what were called "peaceful" purposes. Many countries, including Iraq, North Korea and Iran, pursued nuclear programmes with help from nuclear-armed states like the United Kingdom. When they wanted to try to copy the five countries with nuclear weapons in developing their own weapons, the treaty was used to pressure them.

In 2003, North Korea became the first country to withdraw from the treaty. We know the United States deployed nuclear weapons in and around South Korea until the 1990s and it still stations thousands of troops and weaponry there. Unfortunately, North Koreans are now being taught that having their own nuclear deterrent is the only way to defend themselves against the United States, which possesses the world's most powerful nuclear arsenal. The debate is riddled with hypocrisy.

There is not enough in the Bill and we also need an action plan for the comprehensive phasing out of nuclear weapons in order to reduce nuclear stockpiles, cancel nuclear weapons modernisation programmes and cut nuclear weapons budgets. This must be done through dialogue and engagement with all states in order to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The global militarisation index for 2017 indicates that $1.74 trillion was spent on weapons and military equipment. The European Union spends $260 billion yearly on its military operations. That does not include nuclear spending but I saw one figure indicating that $1 trillion will be spent on modernising the nuclear arsenals of nine countries over the next ten years. We could think about what that nuclear budget could do to end poverty and hunger, protect our climate and achieve sustainable development goals.

Deputy Pringle's Bill to divest from fossil fuels has passed through the Oireachtas and we need to do the same and divest from companies involved with nuclear weapons. Three countries in Europe have done this already and there are 26 companies involved with the production of nuclear weapons. Ireland has already excluded three of these and it is worthwhile looking further into such action. There is a role for smaller countries like Ireland because we have a very strong reputation when it comes to humanitarian issues and human rights. We can be a strong voice here also. A nuclear war can never happen and the best way to avoid it is to have a position where no nuclear weapons are held by anyone.

The Government has today introduced the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2019 to make provision in domestic law for the obligations the State will assume under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I thank all Members who contributed to this afternoon's Second Stage debate. I am pleased that a world free from nuclear weapons is a shared objective of all Members of this House and I thank those who have also praised Ireland's role in leading the negotiations of the TPNW with the core group of states.

As I mentioned in earlier remarks, the significance of the TPNW lies in the fact that for the first time the core objective of the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be clearly and unambiguously stated in an international treaty addressing that current legal gap. The TPNW contains a comprehensive set of prohibitions on nuclear weapons activities, including undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. These provisions represent in themselves an important milestone on the path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, as do the provisions of the treaty prohibiting the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory.

In addition to the comprehensive prohibitions in the treaty, the TPNW makes its own contributions to the multilateral disarmament framework through a number of groundbreaking provisions that I cited in my opening remarks. The treaty takes a holistic approach, looking at the actual and potential real world effects of nuclear weapons and, in doing so, it shifts the discourse from a security lens to a humanitarian lens, challenging us to think about the enormity of the threat posed by these weapons. By stigmatising and prohibiting nuclear weapons, it makes a statement that these weapons are simply no longer acceptable. It centralises the impact on victims and provides assistance for survivors of nuclear weapons testing or use. It also addresses the fact that ionising radiation is even more harmful to women than men and it promotes the equal participation of women and men in disarmament fora. The treaty recognises the alarming impact of nuclear weapons testing and use on our already fragile planet and it provides for environmental remediation measures.

These new provisions reflect a greater appreciation of the elevated risk and the catastrophic consequences that would result from a nuclear weapons detonation. Whereas the TPNW is supported by the majority of countries, it is opposed by all nuclear weapons states and their military allies, including NATO members. That is not surprising, given the arsenals of nuclear weapons that these states hold. These countries argue that the fact that they have nuclear weapons deters other states from attacking them but Ireland does not subscribe to the nuclear deterrence theory, rather believing that the existence of nuclear weapons constitutes a threat to human security and the future of the planet, as outlined so eloquently by other Members this afternoon.

The argument put forward by opponents of the treaty is that it undermines the existing legal frameworks provided by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty. From our perspective, the negotiating mandate for the conference that adopted the TPNW set out clearly that the new legal instrument to be adopted was to be complementary to and reinforce the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty.

Ireland's approach to the negotiations was very much guided by this aspect of the mandate and we are satisfied that the TPNW achieves the same very well. The non-proliferation treaty always envisaged a separate legal instrument to provide for nuclear disarmament and the TPNW is therefore the first step in implementing the nuclear disarmament provisions of the former.

The interaction of the TPNW with the existing disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was a primary concern of many states during the negotiations. I am confident that the TPNW has adequately addressed these issues by complementing and enhancing existing arrangements while not creating parallel or competing structures.

A number of like-minded states which are also not part of military alliances have already signed and ratified the TPNW, for example, Austria and New Zealand. However, there are some like-minded states which have not signed for now and national debates are taking place in many of these jurisdictions. We expect up to five further ratifications at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York next week and up to six further signatures. To date, 122 UN member states have shown support for the TPNW.

Despite the criticisms and the reluctance by some states to sign or ratify the treaty, the TPNW is an important milestone. Not only does it represent significant progress but it also reinvigorates the non-proliferation treaty at a time when this is badly needed. It gives back the impetus to non-nuclear, small states like Ireland to seize the initiative and move the nuclear disarmament agenda forward once more. It is incumbent on us to do so because not only is nuclear disarmament a signature aspect of our foreign policy, a nuclear weapons-free world is also in the best interests of humanity.

It is clear that issues of nuclear disarmament sometimes require us to take a position that is not universally shared or popular. I am proud that this principled approach, based on integrity and consistency, is a hallmark of Ireland's disarmament policy stretching back decades. Ireland has never shied away from its advocacy for nuclear disarmament and the continued existence of nuclear weapons is a challenge to global security, an affront to our planet and abhorrent to our people. The ethical, humanitarian and now legal imperatives for disarmament are overwhelming.

The Government is anxious to carry forward the excellent work that is already being done by being in a position to ratify the TPNW by the end of this year and the enactment of the Bill facilitates this and will clearly demonstrate Ireland's commitment to promoting the earliest possible entry into force of the TPNW. I look forward to the progress of the Bill to Committee Stage and thank all the Members for their contributions this afternoon. We look forward to proceedings on the Bill being concluded in the shortest possible time.

Question put and agreed to.