Friday, July 29, 2022

Annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 6th August

The annual commemoration for the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb took place on Saturday, 6th August 2022, the 77th anniversary of the bombing, at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square park, Dublin 2.

Opening the ceremony, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Darcy Lonergan spoke of the need for hope in the face of a world once again threatened by the possibility of nuclear war. She praised the work of Irish diplomats over the years for their key role in bringing both the Non-Proliferation Treaty and, more recently, the treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to reality. 

Deputy Lord Mayor Darcy Lonergan speaking at the 2022 Hiroshima commemoration ceremony.

Mr Mitsuru Kitano, the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland, noted that the current prime minister of Japan comes from Hiroshima, and cited Prime Minister Kishida's recent reiteration, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the United Nations, of Japan's commitment to working for a world without nuclear weapons. 

The Japanese ambassador to Ireland, Mr Mitsuru Kitano, addressing the annual Hiroshima commemoration in Merrion Square. 

The President of Irish CND, Canon Patrick Comerford, was unable to attend, and Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, read out a short reflection by Canon Comerford in his absence. 

Traditional musician Máire Ní Bheaglaíoch contributed several pieces of reflective music on the accordion, and poet Eriko Tsugawa read her poem, "Lull in the rain", the title poem from her collection which received the Hideo Oguma Japanese Poetry Award this year. 

Irish CND Chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, spoke of the importance of meeting the threat of nuclear weapons and the reality of violence in the world today with a strong voice for peace and hope, quoting the closing words of the Vienna Declaration, agreed at the first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in June 2022:

"We have no illusions about the challenges and obstacles that lie before us in realizing the aims of this Treaty. But we move ahead with optimism and resolve. In the face of the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons and in the interest of the very survival of humanity, we cannot do otherwise. We will take every path that is open to us, and work persistently to open those that are still closed. We will not rest until the last state has joined the Treaty, the last warhead has been dismantled and destroyed and nuclear weapons have been totally eliminated from the Earth."

At the close of the ceremony, the Deputy Lord Mayor laid a wreath at the base of the cherry tree, followed by the observation of a minute's silence in memory of all victims of atomic and nuclear bombing and testing. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

First Meeting of TPNW Member States takes place in Vienna

After entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in January 2021, the first meeting of states parties to the treaty took place in Vienna from 21st - 23 June 2022. 

The meeting formed the climax of Nuclear Ban Week, co-ordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Events kicked off with a two-day civil society Nuclear Ban Forum, and also included meetings of Youth for TPNW, the inaugural Parliamentarians for TPNW Conference, and a conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons organised by the Austrian government. 

Ireland's initial statement in the opening debate of the Meeting of States Parties offered a reminder of how the continued existence of nuclear weapons undermines international security: "It is our fundamental belief that nuclear weapons offer no security. And we know that no amount of resources could provide an adequate humanitarian response to nuclear weapons use. We know that nuclear rhetoric serves to heighten risks and drive escalation in conventional conflict."

As part of the meeting proceedings, Ireland co-sponsored working papers on the complementarity between the TPNW and existing disarmament and non-proliferation frameworks , and on the gender provisions of the TPNW , which highlights the disproportionate impact of nuclear detonations on women and children. Ireland also co-hosted a side event on Gender-Responsive Disarmament, along with WILPF and several other organisations. 

Addressing the Meeting on behalf of the 635 civil society organisations worldwide who are part of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn, ICAN's Executive Director, stressed the urgency of moving forward with nuclear disarmament: "the need for the treaty is clearer and more urgent than ever. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and its threats to use nuclear weapons have increased the already unacceptable risks of use, and brought the terrible prospect of nuclear war and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons to the forefront of public consciousness. The TPNW community must act decisively against such threats, and do everything possible to prevent the use of nuclear weapons"

Irish CND welcomes the agreement and publication of an ambitious Declaration and a 50-point Action Plan on the further implementation of the TPNW as key outcomes of the Vienna meeting. 

As the concluding paragraph of the Vienna Declaration states: "We have no illusions about the challenges and obstacles that lie before us in realizing the aims of this Treaty. But we move ahead with optimism and resolve. In the face of the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons and in the interest of the very survival of humanity, we cannot do otherwise. We will take every path that is open to us, and work persistently to open those that are still closed. We will not rest until the last state has joined the Treaty, the last warhead has been dismantled and destroyed and nuclear weapons have been totally eliminated from the Earth."

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Irish CND statement on Russian invasion of Ukraine

Many people across not just Europe but the entire world will have reacted with shock, fear, horror and even despair at the news that Russian armed forces have launched a multi-pronged attack on Ukraine. A major act of military aggression by a nuclear-armed power raises the prospect of huge civilian casualties and a humanitarian disaster for the population of Ukraine, even without the use of nuclear weapons. The real possibility that nuclear weapons could be engaged in any ongoing conflict risks damage to human life and the environment on an unprecedented, terrifying and utterly catastrophic level.  

War represents not just an immediate failure of diplomacy, but a long-term failure of decency, imagination, maturity and civilisation on the part of the aggressors, and on the part of those who have stoked fear, suspicion, hostility and confrontation on all fronts. Violence is not an acceptable last resort in any circumstance; it is an expression of basic, de-humanised depravity that devalues and destroys human life, human rights and the fragile balance that sustains our wider environment.  

The immediate outfall of war in death and injury to both soldiers and civilians in the Ukraine is already apparent. Further impacts, as refugees flee from conflict, and infrastructure, including food supplies and health services, is destroyed, inevitably follow rapidly. The medical and humanitarian consequences of a prolonged conflict can only grow larger and more frightening by the day and by the hour.  

News of fighting in the area around the crippled and still-dangerous Chernobyl nuclear power plant is chilling. Today, Ukraine has four nuclear power plants with 15 reactors, which together generate up to 50% of the country's electricity supply. An accidental or deliberate strike on any of these facilities could release radioactive materials on a scale far larger than that of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Damage to the electricity grid itself, or failure of back-up systems, could likewise result in a devastating nuclear meltdown at any of these locations. Any such nuclear catastrophe, whether accidental or through deliberate weaponisation of nuclear infrastructure, would have far-reaching effects well beyond the borders of Ukraine or Russia.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated in recent days, "No matter who tries to stand in our way… Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history." While his statement does not directly reference nuclear weapons, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is an implicit threat to launch a nuclear attack, either against Ukraine or other countries which he perceives as an obstacle to his ambitions. President Putin was joined by Belarussian President Lukashenko to oversee military exercises involving nuclear missiles in the past week. In the coming days, Belarus, which facilitated the Russian invasion from its territory to the north-west of Ukraine, will hold a referendum which would allow Russian nuclear weapons to be based in the country. Such statements and actions reinforce the sense of foreboding that an impending nuclear escalation of the conflict is all-too-possible. The consequences for all life on earth as we know it would be unthinkable.  

Irish CND joins with our colleagues in the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and veiled threats to use nuclear weapons: "We urge the international community to strongly pressure Russia to engage in dialogue and diplomacy, to return to compliance with the UN Charter, respect international humanitarian and human rights law and join relevant treaties to reduce nuclear weapons risks, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons." 

Irish CND calls on the Irish government to use Ireland's influence as a neutral country and as a member of the United Nations Security Council, to take a courageous, self-determined stance to promote peace through all available and appropriate international fora.  

In June 2021, President Putin and American President Joe Biden issued a joint statement reaffirming that a "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." Less than a year later, the world finds itself facing a real and terrifying threat that a nuclear war could indeed be close at hand. We urge nuclear-armed states, whatever their role in the present conflict, to renounce their horrific potential for mass destruction and abolish their nuclear arsenals. We urge European states hosting American nuclear weapons to cease these arrangements immediately. We urge all states, nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-armed, to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force just over a year ago, and provides a clear pathway for a nuclear-weapons-free world.  

Irish CND acknowledges with gratitude the use of briefing materials provided by our colleagues in the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Beyond Nuclear International in the preparation of this statement.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Annual Hiroshima commemoration takes place in Dublin

On 6th August 2021, the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the annual commemoration of the horrific events of that day took place in Merrion Square park, Dublin. 

Opening the ceremony, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Joe Costello, welcomed guests to the occasion and spoke of his pride in Ireland's contributions to moving nuclear disarmament forward in the international arena, most recently through Ireland's role in bringing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to reality. He welcomed the fact that as a consequence of the Treaty's entry into force earlier in the year, Ireland has divested state-held funds from companies involved in the nuclear weapons industry. He also reaffirmed Dublin's commitment to the goals of Mayors for Peace, welcoming their newly-released Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Joe Costello, speaks at the annual Hiroshima commemoration.

Irish CND president, Canon Patrick Comerford, spoke of the futility of nuclear weapons in the face of a global pandemic, and the other crises the world faces today: global warming, cyber security and human rights abuses, all of which threaten our survival. He denounced the misguided actions of the governments of nuclear-armed states who "continue to spend money needed for health care and research on weapons that are useless against this global threat to our security and our survival."

"Nuclear weapons protect us against none of the threats we face in the world today. They never protected us against the threats the world faced in the past. And they have no place in the world as we face the challenges of the future," he concluded. 

Canon Patrick Comerford, president of Irish CND, addresses the Hiroshima commemoration.

The Japanese ambassador to Ireland, Mr Mitsuru Kitano, welcomed the move by the United States and Russia to extend the New Start treaty for five years, and also acknowledged Ireland's role in international disarmament efforts. He spoke of Japan's commitment to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, and called on all states to strive towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

Ambassador Kitano speaks at the Hiroshima commemoration.

There were contributions of reflective traditional music from violinist Niall Coakley, from the Emigrant Suite, and the slow air Táimse im' chodladh. Eriko Tsugawa-Madden read the original Japanese version of a poem by Tamiki Hara, who witnessed the atomic bombing and its aftermath, while Tony Madden read Eriko's English translation of the poem, "Give me water". 

Reflecting on the torrential rain which fell in the course of the ceremony, Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, said, "We feel the discomfort of live-giving water falling from the sky. We cannot begin the imagine the experience of death and annihilation raining down from the sky." As the rain cleared, he continued, "Just as the rain gives way to sunshine around us today, we look to the future with hope and determination that no-one will ever have to experience what the people of Hiroshima experienced 76 years ago, the hope not just that nuclear weapons will never again be used, but that one day, soon, nuclear weapons will no longer exist."

Deputy Lord Mayor Joe Costello laid a white wreath, symbolising peace, at the foot of the cherry tree planted by Irish CND in 1980 as a living memorial, while participants observed a minute's silence in memory of all victims of atomic bombing and testing at the close of the ceremony. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

United Kingdom breaks international treaty obligations with nuclear expansion plans

The government of the United Kingdom has announced its intention to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons by 40%, which would bring its total to 260 warheads. Each warhead is estimated to have an explosive power of around 100 kilotons, making them significantly more dangerous than the 15 kt bomb which devastated Hiroshima in 1945, causing the death of approximately 140,000 people by the end of the year.

Responding the news, the UN Secretary General's office described the plans as contrary to the UK's obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Irish CND is shocked and repulsed by this move by our nearest neighbour to increase the capacity of its weapons of mass destruction. At a time when the planet faces existential threats from climate change and global biodiversity loss, not to mention the likelihood of future pandemics in addition to the current Covid-19 crisis, pouring vast sums into the power of destruction is reckless and immoral.

In 2019, the UK spent £7.2 billion on its nuclear weapons. How many doctors, nurses, intensive care beds and ventilators could that money have financed? How many programmes to decarbonise the UK economy and lessen the impacts of climate change could it have supported?

Denouncing the plans, Irish CND chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, said: "At a time when the United Kingdom claims to aspire to a renewed role in global leadership, its government has chosen to cling desperately to the flotsam of the failed policies of the 1950s and '60s instead of looking to the future with a meaningful vision of global security. Nuclear weapons have never made the world safer. They can play no part in tackling the genuine crises that the world faces today.

"This egotistical move threatens suffering and death on an unimaginable scale, were these weapons ever to be detonated, either by accident or intentionally. Even if they are never used, this move will still contribute to suffering and death for many, many people, both in the UK and further afield, which could have been averted by putting the huge cost of these weapons to better use. Nuclear weapons are a symbol of shame, not status, for the British government."

"In 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was agreed by a significant majority of UN member states. It entered into force in January 2021. This is clearly what the world wants and needs for nuclear weapons: to consign them to the dustbin of history. We urge the UK and other countries which have not yet done so to follow Ireland's lead in joining the TPNW and committing to a world free of nuclear weapons." 

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (of which Irish CND is a partner organisation), stated: “A decision by the United Kingdom to increase its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law. While the British people are struggling to cope with the pandemic, an economic crisis, violence against women, and racism, the government choses to increase insecurity and threats in the world. This is toxic masculinity on display.”

“While the majority of the world’s nations are leading the way to a safer future without nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the United Kingdom is pushing for a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”

The move was also strongly criticised by Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima, who stated: "Its implementation would run counter to the nuclear disarmament obligation of NPT States Parties and reverse three decades of nuclear weapon reduction policy by the United Kingdom. Such steps can only result in further acceleration of the arms race and weakening international security and stability."

Friday, January 22, 2021

Nuclear weapons are banned under international law

Nuclear weapons were always immoral. With the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on Friday, 22nd January 2021, these abhorrent weapons of mass destruction are also illegal under international law. 

The Treaty explicitly prohibits states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the provision of assistance in any of these activities, and bans both the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons. 

In addition to these prohibitions, the TPNW sets out a framework for nuclear-armed states to renounce their weapons, and contains provisions for the support of victims of nuclear weapon explosions, and for environmental remediation. It also recognises the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on women and girls. 

Although initially only binding on the states that have ratified it to date, the TPNW is a significant step in stigmatising and delegitimising the possession of nuclear weapons by less than ten states. Through the entry into force of the TPNW, states opposed to the threat of nuclear annihilation reshape international norms to declare unequivocally that nuclear weapons are unacceptable. 

Ireland has played a key role in the TPNW process, from being one of the states which proposed the negotiation of a new treaty at the UN, through being a key participant in the negotiation process, culminating in Ireland's ratification of the treaty on 6th August 2020, the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In welcoming the entry into force, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, stated "The elimination of nuclear weapons is not just a priority of this Government, but one shared by all parties and strongly supported by the Irish people."

Campaigners, activists, diplomats and politicians across the world have all played their part in bringing about this historic moment. ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (of which Irish CND is a member), received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its key role in promoting the successful negotiation of the treaty. 

Particular mention, however, needs to made of the hibakusha - the "explosion-affected people", who have carried the terrible legacy of atomic warfare in their bodies, many of whom have dedicated their lives to the cause of liberating the world from nuclear weapons. The dreadful toll taken on the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as those living in the vicinity of nuclear test sites, is powerful testimony to why nuclear weapons must be abolished once and for all. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty reaches threshold for Entry into Force

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has been ratified by 50 countries, and will now enter into force on 22nd January 2021, 90 days after its 50th ratification was lodged at the United Nations. The Treaty was negotiated in 2017 with the backing of 122 countries, following a UN motion proposed by Ireland and 5 other states calling for talks on a new legal instrument to outlaw nuclear weapons.  

For the first time under international law, the treaty explicitly bans the use, development, testing, production, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, threat of  use and deployment of nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the provision of assistance to others to do any of these banned actions and provides a pathway to disarmament for states which possess nuclear weapons. 

Ireland ratified the TPNW on 6th August 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and has already transposed its provisions into Irish law in the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Act (2019). 

Welcoming the news that the Treaty has reached the threshold for entry into force, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar said: "This is a momentous step on the road to a world free of nuclear weapons. There is now an irrefutable international norm against nuclear weapons. While that will not bring about disarmament overnight, it clearly de-legitimises their development and possession. 

"Nuclear weapons are the most deadly, devastating and indiscriminate weapons ever developed. It is high time, 75 years after they were first used, that they were consigned to history forever. They are a prime example of the misapplication of scientific technology. The money and effort which has gone into their development and maintenance should now be diverted to tackling the other man-made existential crises facing the planet in the form of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss." 

Irish CND pays tribute to the tireless work of many campaigners, especially the hibakusha who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, many of whom have dedicated their lives - often despite serious health impacts from the bombing - to working to ensure that no future generation would have to endure the horrors they suffered. 

The work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN - Nobel Peace Prize 2017), of which Irish CND is a partner organisation, deserves particular praise, in facilitating the development of a focussed global network of campaigners, working together towards the clear goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons. ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn welcomed the historic moment. “This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament. Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: nuclear weapons are banned," she said.

ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the Hiroshima bomb as a child, accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

Irish CND commends the Irish government for its international leadership in the negotiation of the TPNW and the process leading to its entry into force. It is very much to be welcomed that all shades of Irish political opinion have put their support firmly behind the TPNW, and have emphasised its importance in providing the framework for disarmament which the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) lacks. 

Irish CND wholeheartedly endorses the words of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who stated*: "The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offers us a path to nuclear disarmament by finally putting in place a workable legal framework for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty is fully complementary with the NPT. The TPNW strengthens and reinforces the NPT and reaffirms it as the cornerstone of the disarmament and non-proliferation regime. It is a facilitator, not an impediment to progress. As recognised in the NPT, TPNW and throughout the discussions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the only true guarantee against the horrors of nuclear war is the total elimination of nuclear weapons."

*Speech by Minister Simon Coveney, to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, 25th February 2019.