By Ray O’Hanlon
Ireland is back on the United Nations Security Council this week after an absence of almost 20 years.
Ireland’s ambassador to the UN, Richard Ryan, formally took his seat on the 15-member body on Jan. 1.
Ireland secured a rotating seat on the council last October after a tough behind-the-scenes election battle with Italy.
Ireland’s term on the council lasts two years and it is certain to place the country’s position on a variety of global issues in a more prominent light.
"There will be a lot more of a focus on our foreign policy, particularly in relation to international peace and security issues," said John Deady of the Irish Mission to the United Nations.
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The last time Ireland was represented on the council the Falklands War broke out and the Irish seat became somewhat warmer when Taoiseach Charles Haughey opposed British efforts to maintain sanctions against the junta in Buenos Aires.
The Middle East, the Balkans and Africa are the trouble spots more likely to keep Ireland’s representatives busy over the next couple of years.
Because it is not seen as an international security issue, there is little chance that Northern Ireland will appear above the horizon during the Irish term.
That term, meanwhile, comes at a time when Ireland’s profile at the UN has arguably never been higher. Though she does not represent Ireland or its government, former Irish president Mary Robinson has been a prominent UN figure in recent times in her capacity as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.