I welcome and strongly support the initiative by the Norwegian Government to host an International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. I believe this conference - and, indeed, the discussion on this topic more generally - will help to highlight the calamitous, unmanageable and immoral implications of any use, whether accidental or deliberate, of nuclear weapons. It will also help to demonstrate again that the possession of nuclear weapons entails unacceptable risks and that there is no place for these weapons in defensive arsenals or security postures. The Deputy may be aware that there was discussion of the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which expressed its “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons" and reaffirmed "the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law".
When the preparatory process towards the next (2015) NPT Review Conference commenced in Vienna last May, Switzerland sought to generate discussion around this topic with a joint statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, which it delivered on behalf of 16 states. It delivered the same statement to the 67th UN General Assembly First Committee meeting in October on behalf of 34 states. Ireland was involved with both statements from the outset and we are associated by name with them. I can confirm to the Deputy that Ireland will participate actively in the Oslo Conference. Last December I was invited by my Norwegian counterpart to nominate Irish representatives at senior official and expert level to participate in the conference. The Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will attend on my behalf. Our Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, which covers disarmament issues, will also be represented. We are consulting other interested Government Departments to establish how best we might frame a constructive contribution to the discussion in Oslo. The conference will be preceded by a civil society meeting, organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which will debate the same topic. A contingent of NGOs from the civil society meeting will then participate in the official conference. I believe civil society has an extremely important role to play in raising awareness about this important issue and contributing to debate. I hope Irish civil society will be able to feed into the useful and timely discussion that is emerging. Ireland has an established track record of support for efforts to promote nuclear disarmament. I assure the Deputy that it is my intention that we will continue to participate actively in these efforts.