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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Dec 2019

Vol. 268 No. 12

Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2019: Second and Subsequent Stages

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House on the Bill and I thank Senators for their consideration of it. The purpose of the Bill is to enable Ireland to become a state party to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW. It will put in place the necessary legislation to allow Ireland to ratify this historic treaty.

The treaty is the outcome of a two-year process led by states and civil society concerned at the increasing risks and catastrophic consequences of a nuclear weapons explosion as well as by lack of progress by the nuclear weapons states on the disarmament provisions of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, NPT.

Ireland has a long history of leadership in nuclear disarmament, and in particular played a leading role in the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which is the cornerstone of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime. The TPNW of 2017 is fully complementary to that treaty and continues a long Irish tradition of nuclear diplomacy. Ireland is closely linked with the TPNW and took a leading role in the adoption process as a member of the core group of states, along with Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa.

The treaty was opened for signature at the UN in New York on 20 of September 2017. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, signed the treaty on behalf of Ireland on the first day it opened for signature. As of today, the treaty has received 80 signatures, including 34 ratifications. The TPNW requires 50 ratifications to enter into force. I hope that the passage of this legislation will allow Ireland to ratify the treaty at the earliest possible opportunity.

The TPNW provides for states to fulfil their disarmament obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty 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 that had not been explicitly outlawed. Ireland's long-standing commitment to international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation stems from our collective 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 protection from nuclear weapons use is their complete elimination. The ratification of the TPNW is an important step towards the realisation of this important objective.

This is an historic treaty, which prohibits the last form of weapon of mass destruction not explicitly banned under international law. In this regard, the TPNW 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.

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 nuclear 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 includes 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. These provisions, which emphasise the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, respect for human rights and the promotion of civil society voices, reflect the breadth of participation in the negotiations. In particular, the drafting process benefitted from hearing the crucial testimony from survivors of nuclear weapons testing and use.

I acknowledge that the treaty is not universally accepted in 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 to participate in good faith. Ireland does not agree with their view that nuclear disarmament must wait until an ideal security environment is reached. Rather, Ireland believes 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 enables greater security for all. Ireland is particularly concerned by the fact that the norm against the threat of use of nuclear weapons has been seriously eroded in recent times, and by the prospect of a new nuclear arms race.

In our view and that of the core group of states, the TPNW represents the best hope in decades for multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament. Not only does it provide a framework for disarmament, but it also stigmatises and delegitimises nuclear weapons and, as such, may strengthen calls for disarmament in those countries that possess nuclear weapons.

The core provisions of the TPNW follow the model of other similar legislation prohibiting certain weapons in Irish law. The Bill recently passed through the Dáil, where I am pleased that it received all-party support on all Stages, illustrating the deep concern of the Irish people about the devastating consequences of the detonation of a nuclear weapon anywhere on the planet.

The ratification of the TPNW by Ireland would be in line with our firmly established foreign policy priority on nuclear disarmament and our international position promoting multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. I, therefore, ask all Senators to support this Bill and give effect to our shared commitment to achieve the goal of completely eliminating nuclear weapons from our world.

I thank the Minister of State and call Senator Joe O'Reilly.

I thank the Cathaoirleach Gníomhach. I welcome the Minister of State, who is a regular visitor to this House and engages with us in a very frank, open and fruitful way. I have no doubt that this occasion will be no different. As he said in his concluding remarks, there was all-party agreement on the Bill in the Dáil and I have every reason to believe it will, and should, be the same here.

The Bill effectively enables Ireland to become a state party to the 2017 TPNW The Bill prohibits the transfer, development and use of nuclear weapons and creates penalties for participating in any of the banned activities outlined in it. Arms control efforts includes those efforts to limit existing weapons within one's state and their spread to other states, which is vertical versus horizontal proliferation, to use the technical terms. Development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, receiving and transferring of nuclear weapons is covered by this. Penalties are applied to individuals who are involved and are found guilty in attempting to procure or organise nuclear weapons in a particular state. If this is an entity, such as a corporate entity or an alleged organisation of some sort, individuals who are directors or leaders can be found personally liable. Some 25 states have ratified the treaty and we will join them as a consequence of this legislation, which is a progressive step.

There is new dimension to the nuclear arms race. Years ago, it was about superpowers and there was a sense that they cancelled each other out and there was the threat and the reality of what could happen, reinforced by the memory of Hiroshima, Chernobyl, and any of the events that have happened recently. The threat and fear had the capacity to create such a stand-off whereby nobody was going to step out of line. There is a new reality now in that terrorist organisations within states, and individuals associated with them, can become involved in the acquisition and the proliferation of nuclear arms without the state itself being necessarily involved. This legislation deals with that new contemporary reality that we are all aware of and fear greatly.

It is very important that Ireland should be at the forefront of this. We have a moral authority, which derives from our neutrality and our traditional peacekeeping role. This authority extends to the position of Irish political and other figures, including our various cultural diplomats, the religious, missionaries, politicians who have gone abroad to take part in international organisations, or any groupings leaving from Ireland who have brought with them the moral authority of our neutrality and our status as a peace-loving people who advocate for peace in the world.

Our moral authority would be greatly undermined were we not to ratify this treaty. We would not have the kind of credentials that we have traditionally had, and that we should have. That makes it important to ratify it for its merits. It is important that we are to the forefront in doing that, in the vanguard.

It is regrettable that the five permanent members of the UN, namely, the UK, the US, France, China and Russia, are reluctant to engage in that they want a treaty to be in the context of an overall peace and security deal, an overall denuclearisation at the one time. That is not something we have control over, other than to speak about it, advocate and hopefully we will have a position of power within the UN to do it in the future. We are very strong on all international fora and should remain so in order to do that.

In essence, we cannot change the situation, but we must advocate for change and we must show good example by ratifying the treaty and the non-proliferation agreement here. The fines and the punitive dimension that go with the treaty are so important. Ireland must remain an advocate for peace and good values internationally. We are a small country, but we do punch above our weight internationally and we have five or six times the domestic population as part of an Irish diaspora, many of them in very influential positions abroad. That gives us a unique and disproportionate level of influence internationally and we continue to have that. It is important that we advocate for the right things. We must be champions of peace, nuclear disarmament, human rights, the rule of law and democracy everywhere. That is our duty as a country and it is a reflection of our values.

I am delighted that this legislation is before the House and that it will allow for ratification. That is very good. I am very happy that it is not the subject of contention or adversarial attitude within the Houses. It is important that the Bill would gain unanimous endorsement from our Parliament and that there is no ambiguity around that. If anything, people will hope that it will be even more effective. I do not think anybody would be in any sense opposed to it. I do not have much more to say. I have some briefing notes outlining the background to nuclear disarmament, but I do not see much merit in reading them into the record of the House, other than to restate our commitment and the importance of Ireland's role. We must be leaders in this sphere. We must be unambiguous and implement the legislation to the letter. That is our role. It is only then that we will have moral authority to go on to the international field and continue to talk about it there.

Tá fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit don phlé agus cuirim fáilte roimh an reachtaíocht atá os ár gcomhair. Mar atá ráite ag comhghleacaithe, reachtaíocht tábhachtach agus suntasach atá ann, ní hamháin don tír seo ach don domhan ar fad.

Sinn Féin supports and welcomes the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill. I expect it will receive unanimous support across 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. That is welcome and something to which every country should agree.

Nuclear weapons threaten the very existence of the human race and life on this planet. They should not be developed, stored or used by anyone. I welcome long-standing Irish Government leadership on this issue globally. We need to create a world free from nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Ireland must be a global leader on demilitarisation and disarmament.

In this debate I also believe we should commemorate and remember all the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons attacks. Two nuclear weapons have been used in war. Those were the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military in 1945. The two bombs killed 120,000 civilians and flattened both cities. The bombs were deployed to kill as many civilians as possible. It was a war crime and the effects are still felt today. It should never have happened and the development and use of nuclear weapons should have ended there but, regrettably, the opposite happened. Throughout the Cold War we saw a massive proliferation of nuclear weapons. That was and remains an existential threat to humanity itself. Nuclear weapons have been detonated on more than 2,000 occasions for testing purposes and demonstrations. That, obviously, has created significant environmental damage.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that in 2017 there were approximately 14,465 nuclear weapons in the world. 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 Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT. It divided countries into nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons 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 to the forefront of developments on nuclear disarmament and it was one of the first signatories to the NPT. That is worthy of remembrance, and a proud moment in Irish history. However, the NPT also has significant weaknesses. It allowed the US, 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. Thankfully, South Africa destroyed its nuclear weapons arsenal when the apartheid regime was coming to an end. Others should follow its lead.

In addition, the NPT has been used and abused for political means. Two nuclear states, the US, which signed it, and Israel, which unsurprisingly, 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 did significant damage to the NPT, especially 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 that progressive and positive agreement under pressure from the Israeli Government.

To date, 70 countries have signed a new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and 26 states have ratified it or acceded to it. In order to come into effect, signature and ratification by at least 50 countries is required. This is the first multilateral treaty relating to nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years. I welcome 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 to the treaty sets out some of the general principles and policies. It specifically acknowledges the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. That 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 relation to nuclear weapons. That 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 weapons-processing states. I also wish to draw attention to Article 6, which concerns victim assistance and environmental remediation.

Article 6(1) provides that states 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 states 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 terrible human suffering and environmental damage that the use and testing of nuclear weapons has created.

Unlike the non-proliferation treaty, nuclear armed states joining this treaty will have a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of their nuclear weapons programmes. The treaty is therefore well-written and important in the fight for nuclear disarmament but it has yet to get the international buy-in that it deserves and requires. 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 under severe threat.

The slow pace of developments on nuclear disarmament within the non-proliferation treaty framework 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 on nuclear disarmament. They said that, in their opinion, this treaty does not contribute to the development of international law. It is not surprising that 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 significant amounts of nuclear weapons.

I want to 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 domestic Irish law. While the treaty is not binding on states which are not a party to it, and while 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 to giving support to this 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 are still a part of NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace. We cannot on the one hand chastise countries that stockpile and develop nuclear weapons in Europe and, on the other hand, join EU battle groups and silently move towards creating a standing EU army with them.

I thank the Minister of State. I join with others in strongly welcoming this legislation and the leadership Ireland has shown on this issue. I will first speak about the importance of this treaty. It is another key moment with regard to the multilateral vision of what international society or international co-operation should look like. It is a key exercise in what we saw in the founding of the UN and some of the work of the European Union, that is to say, the idea that we can all agree on principles with regard to how we share the planet, how we treat people and the steps we should take. In that regard it fits with the legacy of Frank Aiken who, as a delegate to the UN from what was then a quite young country, back in the 1950s led the debate on ensuring that the original nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed, which happened in the 1960s. That was really important because it is a cornerstone of the role Ireland has played and the voice it has raised with regard to international co-operation. There is now a push-back against many of the most positive measures taken in respect of multilateralism and principles. It is also the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which is another example of standards being set for which we should all stand and an acknowledgment that even war has limits. There is a pushing away from an international politics of principles and a move towards the international politics of big powers, power plays, patronage and a client-state dynamic. It is vitally important that Ireland continues to champion multilateralism and internationalism.

I agree with the Minister of State very strongly where he says, "Ireland believes the retention of nuclear weapons, and in particular the threat of a renewed arms race, is itself a driver of insecurity and risk". I know that arguments have been made by those states that own nuclear weapons, but also by other countries that have relationships with those states. Some have suggested that the United States' possession of nuclear weapons provides us with a degree of security. We recently saw a crisis unfold in which 50 US nuclear weapons were placed in Turkey, 100 miles from the Syrian border, at a time when the international community was appealing to Turkey not to invade Syria. This is a clear illustration that we are now in a different climate, as Senator O'Reilly has said. There is now a concern that nuclear weapons put us all at risk in an unstable world.

As I have said, Ireland has a very strong and powerful role in respect of building peace. I mentioned Frank Aiken but I also want to acknowledge the work Ireland has done on this treaty and the work it has done with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons network and civil society champions with regard to legislating to prohibit nuclear weapons. Ireland has championed particular issues such as gender in disarmament. I am very aware that Ireland played a key role in ensuring that it is recognised in the preamble to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that the, "equal, full and effective participation of both women and men is an essential factor for the promotion and attainment of sustainable peace and security". That is in line with the championing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on the role of women in peace-building. I recognise and praise Ireland for this.

I was also very proud just over a decade ago when Ireland hosted the talks which led to the treaty banning cluster munitions. This recognised the appalling human damage done by cluster munitions. I am mentioning all of these things to demonstrate that Ireland has done extraordinary things and that we have been at our most powerful when we have been champions for peace. I am also concerned, however, that we are taking measures and steps which compromise our voice and role in that regard. I really need to acknowledge these. I will not go into them at length but they were raised in the debate on Ireland joining permanent structured co-operation, PESCO.

I am concerned that, given the massive expenditure on weaponry across Europe, Ireland may end up in joint procurement agreements with countries that are within NATO. Ireland may end up in joint procurement agreements with countries that hold nuclear weapons or that actively lobby against the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. There is a real question mark over military co-operation, whether through the Partnership for Peace, joint procurement under PESCO, or any similar measures taken with countries that are working against the agenda for peace. The Minister of State made the argument that an escalation in nuclear armaments creates more risk rather than moving us towards peace. That is also true in respect of armaments more widely. Unfortunately, we have seen that European defence funding has increased while the funding for social cohesion has decreased.

I applaud this legislation but I urge Ireland to step up and champion the work of social cohesion and peace-building. Peace is not just the absence of war and it is not the same thing as security. Peace takes work, investment and championing. We should take the international praise and recognition Ireland rightly receives in respect of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms and use it as a moment to reconsider. I have also said this to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, in the past. It is a matter of gunboats or diplomacy. We cannot prioritise both. Ireland needs to prioritise diplomacy and the work of peace and to be consistent.

It would not be right to speak on this matter without giving a word of acknowledgment to our former colleague in this House, former Senator Grace O'Sullivan. She has scaled ships carrying nuclear weapons in her bare feet and was part of a Greenpeace mission that was bombed for its work in trying to prevent underground nuclear weapons testing. She has given us an example of how ethical individuals can challenge us and lead the way.

In this regard I want to acknowledge two individuals from Veterans for Peace who have been mentioned previously in this House, Tarak Kauff and Ken Mayers.

They have played a key role and we must challenge the movement of arms through Shannon Airport. The State needs to recognise that issue, particularly in a situation where we are not getting the assurances we need. In regard to what happens in Shannon Airport, does the Bill extend to those who may not be Irish citizens but who are passing through our airports? Will they be subject to the provisions of this Bill? My understanding is they will be but the Minister of State might assure me on that.

We are expediting the Bill through all Stages because we are so enthusiastic to see it pass but I wanted to make those points and urge that we be a bit more ambitious. The Minister of State mentioned the environmental devastation and I was glad he focused on that. We need to look at some of the environmental consequences of domestic nuclear use as well in energy production. That is a separate discussion and a debate for a different day.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I welcome this Bill with enthusiasm. As Senator Higgins said, it deserves our enthusiastic support on all sides of the House and I know it passed through the Dáil unanimously. On behalf of the Labour Party Senators, I am delighted to support it, in keeping with our party's strong and long-standing commitment to the prohibition of nuclear weapons and to the State's neutrality. As the Minister of State said, Ireland led on these treaty negotiations. In October 2016, we led the historic vote at the UN, resulting in the convening of this groundbreaking instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Minister of State said that the conference at which the treaty was agreed represented the first multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in more than 20 years. It is a real achievement and it builds on previous negotiations, which Ireland supported, to move towards the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

The Bill is designed to ensure implementation of the treaty and we welcome that. The debate is timely, given the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, summit taking place in London today with US President Trump visiting, although he might not be the most welcome of visitors to Britain in the run-up to its general election. It reminds us of the importance of asserting our neutrality on a world stage when we see the NATO states asserting the pre-eminence of an arms alliance and it reminds us of the important voice Ireland and other neutral states can provide at international fora and discussions against nuclear weapons, for neutrality and against armed conflict. That is an important and timely reminder.

I wondered why the legislation took so long to come to us. Second Stage in the Dáil took place on 19 September and the remaining Stages were taken on different dates. I am happy to facilitate the passage of the Bill in one go today but it could have come before us before now. There are a number of important points in the Bill the Minister of State has referred to. I am glad the extraterritorial effect is provided for in section 3. That is provided for in a number of important criminal statutes, including the Bill I initiated in this House that eventually became law, namely the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012, where again we have extraterritorial effect and we also see that in other criminal legislation on child pornography, sex trafficking and so on. It is good to see that provision included here. I am also glad to see the highlighting of gender mainstreaming in the disarmament negotiations. Ireland played a strong role in that and in the fact the treaty promotes equal participation in the treaty's work by women and men, including a provision on disarmament education and recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on the health of women and girls because of ionising radiation from nuclear weapon use. It is also important to see that.

This is an historic treaty. Ireland's role in this has been hugely progressive. Others have referred to Ireland's history post the Second World War and during the Cold War when it was a strong and progressive voice for disarmament in the international sphere. From Frank Aiken's resolutions that have been referred to and the new agenda coalition in 1998 up until now where Irish delegations play important roles on an international stage in the negotiation of treaties such as this, we see proof that small independent neutral states can play a big role in the international sphere. As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to this Bill and to recognise the work of our diplomats abroad who have been so involved in negotiation at the UN table. I commend them on that.

It is unfortunate to say the least that this treaty is not universally supported. While we are united in this House and in the other House in our support for this Bill and this treaty, that commitment is not shared across the international stage. NATO members meeting in London strongly oppose this. Nuclear states oppose the treaty on the international stage and will not sign up to it. That reminds us of the need to ensure we should never be put in a position where we will be pressurised by way of membership of any intergovernmental military alliance to change our position. We have to maintain a strong voice in opposition to nuclear proliferation and we must also remain a strong advocate for rigorous inspection programmes of states that are pursuing nuclear power. If a state has a peaceful nuclear programme, it needs to allow full-scale International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and there should be no exceptions to that. I call on the Minister of State and on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to continue to be strong advocates for nuclear non-proliferation and to continue to affirm Ireland's neutrality on the world stage.

I thank the Senators for their statements and comments and I would like to address a number of points that have been raised in the debate. Ireland strongly believes the TPNW is an important and complementary contribution to the disarmament architecture and, in particular, believes it is fully compatible with the existing legal frameworks provided by the NPT and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The negotiating mandate for the conference that adopted the TPNW clearly set out that the new legal instrument to be adopted was to be complementary to a re-enforced NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Ireland's approach to the negotiations was guided by this aspect of the mandate and we are satisfied the TPNW achieves this aim well. The NPT always envisaged a separate legal instrument to provide for nuclear disarmament and the TPNW is the first step in implementing the NPT's nuclear disarmament provisions. The interaction of the TPNW with the existing disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was a primary concern of many states during the negotiations and I am confident 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 that are also not part of military alliances have signed and ratified the TPNW, such as Austria and New Zealand. However, some like-minded states have not signed it for now and national debates are taking place in some of these jurisdictions. It is the Government's hope that Ireland's completion of the legislative process and ultimate ratification of the treaty will serve to inspire other states to move forward to its signature and ratification. The TPNW is more than two thirds of the way towards the number of ratifications required for it to enter into force, the realisation of which would represent a significant step to a world free of nuclear weapons. At a time of increasing international tensions and as we see renewed concerns about proliferation, a renewed arms race and the destabilising effects of technological developments, the TPNW is a clear indication of the will of the majority of countries to add fresh momentum to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

I want to give Senator Higgins the assurance she sought on the issue of Shannon Airport. On the specific issue of landings at the airport, the Department requires that permission must be sought in advance for landings by all foreign military aircraft requesting permission to avail of facilities at Shannon Airport or at any other Irish airport and that they adhere to strict conditions. These conditions include stipulations that the aircraft is unarmed; it carries no arms, ammunition or explosives; it must not engage in intelligence gathering; and it does not form part of any military operation or exercise. In considering requests for landings by foreign military aircraft, the Department's primary focus is on whether the flight in question complies with these conditions. On the Senator's specific question, there is no distinction made between states when it comes to the application of these criteria. They apply to all states.

That should provide assurance.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Sections 1 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Sitting suspended at 5.25 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.