Dáil Éireann - Volume 153 - 15 December, 1955

Private Notice Question. - Ireland's Membership of U.N.O.

Mr. de Valera asked the Taoiseach if, in view of the number of years [1602] that have elapsed since Ireland applied for membership of the U.N.O., he will make a statement to the Dáil setting forth the obligations which membership entails and the commitments it involves and if before membership is definitely accepted. The will give the Dáil an opportunity of discussing the statement and considering the obligations and commitments.

The Taoiseach: In reply to Deputy de Valera's question, I am pleased to be able to announce to the House that this morning the Government received official notification from the Secretary-General of U.N.O. that Ireland has been admitted to membership of the organisation.

It is necessary to emphasise that Ireland made formal application for such membership following the motion moved in Dáil Eireann by the then Taoiseach on the 24th July, 1946, and unanimously agreed to by the Dáil on the 25th July, 1946; that successive Governments have made it clear, in statements from time to time, that the application continued to stand; and that that application has now been accepted. Ireland is, therefore, already a member of U.N.O. and, this being the case, the concluding part of the question does not arise.

If, at this stage, we no longer desired membership, what would be involved would not be acceptance or nonacceptance, but withdrawal from the position of membership into which we have already entered.

The obligations which membership entails and the commitments it involves were fully set out in the Dáil by the then Taoiseach on the 24th July, 1946. The only difference between the position as then set out and the present position is that the experience of the Korean war has demonstrated that the undertakings envisaged in Article 43 of the Charter of the organisation—regarding the making available of armed forces, etc., —are not mandatory.

Mr. de Valera: Surely there is the question of legislation involved? We [1603] have been kept for nine years on the door-step and I think we ought to have some opportunity of considering the matter. Is legislation not necessary? Is ratification of some kind not necessary?

The Taoiseach: So far as I know, speaking at the moment, ratification is not necessary nor is there any legislation required. The Leader of the Opposition, when Taoiseach, went fully into the entire matter and gave an outline of the obligations. He referred in particular to Article 43 dealing with military commitments. At that time it was thought that the obligation implied in Article 43 would be mandatory. Experience has demonstrated that it is not mandatory but so far as any action by this country is concerned all the necessary action had been taken when the Government, led by Deputy de Valera, as Taoiseach, made the formal application. It is right that perhaps I should refer to a number of statements that were made from time to time. I only indicated them very generally in reply to the question.

In reply to a parliamentary question on the 22nd January, 1947, the then Taoiseach stated: “It is natural in view of what has happened that the question of withdrawing our application should be raised but at the present at any rate I do not propose to interfere with the course of events.”

Again, in reply to a question on the 22nd April, 1947, the then Taoiseach stated: “That the position was still as stated in his reply of the 22nd January, 1947.”

In reply to a question on the 8th October, 1947, in which it was specifically asked why it was not proposed to withdraw the application, the then Taoiseach gave no indication that there was any such intention.

In answer to a question on the 21st June, 1949, the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. MacBride, stated: “With the unanimous approval of the Dáil the Government applied for the admission of Ireland to the U.N.O. [1604] The U.N.O. has not yet disposed of the application. The Government is not called upon to take any further action in the matter.”

In reply to a supplementary question on the same occasion, the Minister stated: “It is not a question of repeating the application. The application was put forward in 1946 and is still there. No steps have been taken by the Government to repeat the application.”

On the 21st November, 1951, the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Aiken, in reply to a question stated: “There is no question of reapplying for membership of the U.N.O. The position is that the application made in 1946 remains blocked by an objection in the Security Council.”

In replying to a question on the 10th December, 1952, Mr. Derrig, on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs, stated: “Ireland's application for admission to the U.N.O. still stands although it remains blocked by an objection in the Security Council.”

On the 2nd March, 1955, the Minister for External Affairs stated: “Ireland's application for membership of the U.N.O. still stands although it remains blocked by an objection in the Security Council.”

In the course of the speech on the Estimates of the Department of External Affairs this year, the Minister for External Affairs specifically stated that the application for membership of the U.N.O. still stood. Deputy Lemass at the meeting of the inter-Parliamentary Union in Helsinki in August last referred to this matter also and said that in view of the easing of the tension and the bettering of international relations he thought Ireland's application should be accepted, or words to that effect.

The position, therefore, is that with the unanimous approval of the Dáil given in July, 1946, the then Government were authorised to make the necessary application and to take the required steps to apply for membership. Successive Governments—and I think there have been three of them since—have allowed that application to stand with the apparent and, I think, the real approval of successive Parliaments [1605] here. Accordingly, with that position before them, the United Nations have unanimously admitted Ireland as a member. We have to do nothing further in the matter. If we were to take any positive action it would mean withdrawal. The obligations, as I said, were stated in fair detail, and with considerable emphasis on the important parts, by Deputy de Valera when he was Taoiseach in 1946.

All Parties in the House were represented in the debate that took place and everybody agreed to the making of the application, with full knowledge of the obligations which were being undertaken in our becoming a member. It would be contrary to our national dignity to do anything now except to accept the obligations of which the Dáil approved in 1946 and of which successive Dála have approved since that time. The only difference is that the obligations are less onerous than appeared even at that time because it was thought in 1946 that acceptance of the obligation of Article 43 might involve us in military commitments. The obligations are lessened to the extent that any commitments of that nature are entirely within our own control.

Mr. de Valera: I am quite aware of all the details to which the Taoiseach has referred but nine years have passed since there was a discussion in the Dáil on the nature of the obligations and commitments. We have a new Dáil that has not had an opportunity of considering these things and I do not think the public know fully what are the obligations involved. It is true that nine years ago I went into some detail in regard to the nature of these obligations and tried to point out particularly that we could not have it both ways, that this organisation was being set up for what I might call collective security and the maintenance of peace and those entering the organisation had to undertake certain obligations. I stated that they were of a very serious nature and that before committing ourselves we should consider them. The Dáil at that time did approve but I think that there was a question at that time of ratification; [1606] certainly the original States only put their signatures to or initialled the charter. In the cases of the original States, therefore, the charter was subject to ratification. We did not have here any opportunity of dealing with it in that particular way and I am wondering whether, in view of the obligations and commitments involved —there would be financial and other commitments no doubt—there should not be a formal motion of ratification.

The Taoiseach: I do not think there could be any question of a necessity for ratification. Undoubtedly there would be financial obligations and the Dáil would have to give its approval, and I would say that when we have considered what financial obligations are imposed upon us, and so on, we will be then in a position in the Dáil to discuss fully the entire matter, the financial commitments and any other obligations that may be imposed upon us as a nation because we have become a member of the U.N.O. I do suggest that it would be utterly wrong that when the Dáil, in 1946, gave unanimous approval, after full discussion, to the then Taoiseach to take the necessary steps and when the three Dála since that time have approved of our application remaining there before the U.N.O. and when we have been admitted—after a long period of time, perhaps——

Mr. de Valera: Nine years on the door-step.

The Taoiseach: When we have been admitted, without anybody here in the House saying that we ought to have withdrawn our application, it would be, as I said before, quite contrary to our national dignity now to withdraw it.

Nobody in this House in any way suggested that we should withdraw our application, even though we had been put on the long finger for so long and had been put in the position of having been made a pawn in the hands of the larger nations, but, certainly, in recent months, Deputy McQuillan, I think it was—I am speaking from recollection; he can correct me if I am wrong—intervened [1607] in some debate and asked when we were going to insist or what the Government was doing to try to make this country a member of the U.N.O. so that our problem of Partition could be ventilated to the world, and nobody objected to that and nobody suggested that we should withdraw our application.

It is, I think, right and proper that we should now, apart altogether from the question of Partition, as a small nation with a very considerable degree of influence in the world because of our connections, our exiles throughout the world, take our place in the comity of nations and do our part to secure what small nations have always required, the maintenance of peace. It would be utterly wrong to give in the least degree any notion that we are going to weaken in our resolution to do our duty in international affairs so far as we can as a small nation.

Mr. de Valera: I have not suggested——

An Ceann Comhairle: This could go on interminably. There is nothing before the House.

Mr. de Valera: I shall only detain the House a moment. I do not want to suggest that I have changed my mind with regard to it, although I think it would be quite possible and quite consistent for a person to do it —quite consistent—seeing that we have been kept for nine years. At least one of the things we ought to take advantage of, if the others did not let us in, is to take advantage to look before and after, seeing that we have had nine years waiting. I simply wanted to know whether the opportunity would be given to members of the Dáil, who have had no opportunity so far—quite a number of them—of considering this matter. I would also like the Taoiseach to look at the Article of the Constitution which provides for ratification in cases of this sort.

The Taoiseach: May I just make one remark? I agree that this could be interminable, but I do not think the [1608] statement that Deputy de Valera has just made that Deputies had no opportunity of considering this matter should go unnoticed or uncontradicted. The matter was definitely raised here by the Minister for External Affairs on the Estimates this year and nobody said that we ought to withdraw.

Mr. de Valera: It was not brought up.

The Taoiseach: It is not nine years since Deputy Lemass, in Helsinki, in August of this year, stated, as leader of the parliamentary delegation from this country, that Russia, in effect, ought to withdraw its veto and we should be ready to take our place. With that statement so fresh in mind, it is rather curious that we should be pressed on this matter in this fashion to-day.

Mr. de Valera: I am simply anxious that members of the House would have their rights.