By Ray O’Hanlon
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be boosting Ireland’s case for membership of the United Nations Security Council during his visit to New York this week.
But even as he presses the flesh of world leaders, Ahern will be reserving time for his own political backyard.
The taoiseach is hoping to hold bilateral meetings on the peace process in Northern Ireland with both President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
A meeting of all three leaders is also possible, although the crammed nature of the taoiseach’s schedule — built as it is around the specially convened UN Millennium Summit Conference — will make such a gathering a difficult one to set up.
Ahern is scheduled to deliver Ireland’s address to the opening session of the summit today. The speech, entitled “A Fair world Order,” will be just a few minutes in length given that almost every world leader is lined up to speak over the next three days.
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The taoiseach will be accompanied on his visit by his partner, Celia Larkin, and Liz O’Donnell, minister of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
O’Donnell is expected to meet with a number of delegations from developing countries in particular.
This is the constituency upon which Ireland is concentrating much of its effort in the campaign to secure a rotating Security Council seat. Voting for the new Security Council will take place next month.
In addition to his summit speech, Ahern will also deliver a keynote address at an event Friday organized by the Foreign Policy Association, a New York-based think tank.
Ahern is to use the event to make what is being described as “a major statement on Irish foreign policy” entitled “Ireland in the Wider World.”
This speech, as with the taoiseach’s summit address, is expected to highlight Ireland’s traditionally strong commitment to the United Nations and the country’s contribution to the world body’s work, particularly in the areas of aid to developing countries, peacekeeping and conflict resolution.
Ireland last held a rotating Security Council seat in 1982. During the Irish term, the Falklands/Malvinas War erupted and the Irish delegation raised UN eyebrows when — under instructions from then Taoiseach Charles Haughey — it voted to lift sanctions against Argentina.
Norway and Italy are Ireland’s main rivals for the vacant seat in next month’s runoff.