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Statement by President Higgins on rise in global spending on nuclear weapons

Date: Tue 18th Jun, 2024 | 17:25

“Recent statements issued by two of the most reputable organisations in relation to armaments production and distribution – one of which, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 – told us that we are most likely at the beginning of a nuclear arms race which should concern us all.

ICAN’s report, ‘Surge: 2023 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending’, finds that the nine nuclear-armed states spent a total of $91.4 billion on their nuclear arsenals last year, an increase of 13.4% or $10.8 billion on the previous year. They further found that twenty companies working on nuclear weapons development and maintenance earned at least $31 billion for this work.

Writing at the same time, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have found that the number and types of nuclear weapons in development have increased, with an estimated 9,585 nuclear warheads in military stockpiles for potential use.

In the same week as these reports have been published, there has been a statement by a representative of NATO suggesting that there is a case for the further distribution of nuclear warheads in Europe. We continue to see some European Governments, including those committed in their constitutions to neutrality, coming under pressure to cede ground to military decision-making bodies, decisions that under the Treaties of the European Union are matters for the decision of citizens and their Governments, and the obligations those Governments have made in the name of their citizens to the United Nations.

Ireland’s relationship with the United Nations in relation to armaments proliferation has been a courageous and innovative one in seeking to join with others in working to bring an end to the destructive capacity that nuclear weapons represent, but above all to curtailing their proliferation.

This is a long tradition, constituting a legacy as to the pursuit of global peace, with the ‘Irish resolution’ led by Minister for External Affairs Frank Aiken paving the way for the ground-breaking 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In recognition of this pioneering role, Ireland was invited to be the first to sign that Treaty.

Today, Ireland is one of very few European countries to have signed the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted in July 2017.

The vast majority of the membership of the United Nations supports the position that Ireland takes, however it would appear that the nine holders of nuclear weapons capacity do not, with all nine increasing the amount they spent on nuclear weapons last year according to the ICAN report.

In the wake of European elections where so many of the great problems facing humanity got scant coverage – such as responding to the effects of climate change, global poverty, hunger, famine and malnutrition – all urgent topics for all of humanity, it is time for those who believe in a peaceful coexistence and the international institutions of which we are all a member to add their voices to those such as those speaking for Ireland who have expressed their commitment to the diplomatic resolution of conflicts where possible.”