Cowen outlined Ireland’s position in a speech Monday to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York.
Earlier he had met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington. The two men discussed a variety of issues including the Northern Ireland peace process and Iraq. Cowen told the National Committee that Powell had restated to him the Bush administration’s absolute commitment to the process.
The minister and secretary did not discuss the status of Shannon in the event of hostilities breaking out against Iraq, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said. The Irish government currently allows the U.S. to use the County Clare airport as a refueling stop for aircraft ferrying military personnel.
Cowen’s speech to the National Committee, delivered during a luncheon at the Park Avenue headquarters of Mutual of America, amounted to a sweeping overview of Irish foreign policy and Ireland’s almost concluded two-year term as a rotating member of the UN Security council.
Cowen said that the United States, engaging in this way with the international community, under the auspices of the United Nations and providing leadership within its framework, was an America that commanded even greater respect throughout the world, not only for its strength, but for its civilized values.
“I would argue that, however strong the U.S. may be on its own, it is stronger still when it acts in mutual solidarity and support with the international community,” Cowen said.
The use of military force in international relations, other than the legitimate right to self defense as recognized in Article 51 of the UN Charter, Cowen said, required the engagement of the United Nations and the Security Council.
Cowen said that no issue in the Security Council over the two years since Ireland became a member had been more difficult than Iraq.
“We believe President Bush was entirely right to come to the United Nations in September and to say to the Council: ‘assume your responsibilities,’ ” cowen said. “We consider Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously, to be rigorous but fair in its demands of Iraq. . . . We consider that it is the Security Council that must decide, should it prove necessary to do so, that Iraq is in material breach — in the international legal definition of that term — of its obligations under Resolution 1441 and other council decisions.
“I know that the patience of many in the United States was strained by the weeks of diplomatic bartering in the council. All I can say is the strain was shared by all of us, including the people of Ireland who followed day-to-day developments closely.”
As for Northern Ireland, Cowen said the task of completing the peace process is already well advanced and consisted of building a system of law and order that rests on equality and parity of esteem between the two traditions and also a police service that everyone of both traditions, including republicans and loyalists, could view as their own.
“There were always going to be temporary setbacks in the process,” he said.
“And, clearly, the suspension of devolved institutions is a setback. It has happened because of the erosion of trust. And we now need a rebuilding of that trust.
“This will be achieved not by incremental moves forward but by the irreversible and complete implementation of all outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement, together and in the round.”