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.