By Ray O’Hanlon
If it had been war it would have been no contest. But powers great and small tend to be brought to one level by diplomacy. For a while at least.
The Republic of Ireland recently fought a rearguard action against the United States at the United Nations.
Eventually, however, Washington’s power prevailed and Ireland, currently a rotating member of the Security Council, agreed to allow U.S. peacekeeping troops a year’s immunity from prosecution by the newly formed International Criminal Court.
Ireland was not alone in attempting to persuade the U.S. to accept the court’s jurisdiction. Indeed, the entire European Union, Canada and Mexico, among others, were of the view that Washington needed to concede ground.
But a lengthy argument in the Security Council hammered out a compromise in which all parties did just that.
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Ireland was one of the last holdouts, along with Mexico, France and the tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius.
A UN source described the process leading to the compromise as a series of “very intense deliberations.”
Putting its principles where its mouth was, the Irish delegation to the Security Council did not seek a similar exemption from the court for Irish peacekeeping troops.
Irish soldiers serving in United Nations blue berets are now answerable to the court, which was established under the Rome Statue of 1998.
But the chances of an Irish soldier being called to book are remote. The court’s brief tends to cover only the most extreme crimes against humanity, including genocide.
In a statement to the Security Council, Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Ryan, acknowledged what the U.S. government “genuinely believes to be soundly based problems with the International Criminal Court and its impact on U.S. personnel serving in peace operations.
“While we understand the concerns of the U.S., we do not feel that they are well founded,” Ryan said.
“We consider that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court already contains adequate safeguards against politically-inspired investigations or prosecutions before the court.
“The development of international law is one of the great achievements of humankind in recent decades. International treaties have their own integrity, which must be protected. This, for Ireland, is a fundamental principle.”
Ireland’s two-year term on the Security Council, an busy period that has been dominated by the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism, runs for another five months.