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Country Reports


Ireland signed and ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008. Ireland was one of four countries both to sign and ratify that day.

Ireland was a driving force behind the Oslo Process. From the beginning, it was a member of the small “Core Group” of nations that took responsibility for the Oslo Process and the development of the Convention on Cluster Munitions outside of traditional diplomatic fora. Ireland hosted the formal negotiations of the convention in Dublin from 19 to 30 May 2008, with Ambassador Daithi O’Ceallaigh playing the crucial role of President of the Dublin Diplomatic Conference. Ambassador O’Ceallaigh, his team, and the government of Ireland bear a great deal of the responsibility for the successful outcome of the negotiations and the strength of the convention.

Ireland has not produced, stockpiled, transferred, or used cluster munitions.

Ireland is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) on 8 November 2006. Ireland has participated in the work of the CCW on cluster munitions in recent years.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

In April 2003, Pax Christi Ireland, together with Irish government, organized an international conference on ERW with a special focus on cluster munitions. At the conclusion of this conference, a group of NGOs determined that a more coordinated joint effort was needed to strengthen humanitarian protection from cluster munitions. This led directly to the creation of the CMC, launched in November 2003 in The Hague.[1]

Ireland was an early supporter of international action to tackle cluster munitions. It began “calling for action on cluster munitions within the CCW [in] July 2002.”[2] In November 2006, during the CCW Third Review Conference, Ireland and five other nations proposed a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”[3] When this mandate did not gain consensus, Ireland was one of 25 nations that issued a joint declaration calling for an agreement that would prohibit the use of cluster munitions “within concentrations of civilians,” prohibit the use of cluster munitions that “pose serious humanitarian hazards because they are for example unreliable and/or inaccurate,” and require destruction of stockpiles of such cluster munitions.[4]

Norway then announced that it would start an independent process outside the CCW to negotiate a treaty on cluster munitions, and invited other governments to join. Ireland said that it would be prepared to work in the CCW and also elsewhere to seek an agreement on cluster munitions. Referring to the use of cluster munitions by Israel in Lebanon in 2006, Ireland stated that “recent events should have dispelled any lingering doubts about the indiscriminate effects associated with the use of cluster munitions.”[5]

Ireland was one of the most active participants throughout the Oslo Process, from the international conference to launch the process in February 2007, to the three subsequent international conferences to develop the convention text in Lima, Vienna, and,to the formal negotiations that it hosted in Dublin in May 2008. It also participated in the regional conferences in Brussels (October 2007), Livingstone (March/April 2008), Lao PDR (October 2008), and Beirut (November 2008).

At the first Oslo conference in February 2007, Ireland endorsed the Oslo Declaration, committing states to conclude in 2008 a new convention prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. For its part, Ireland called for a categorical prohibition on the weapon.[6]

During the Lima conference in May 2007, Ireland raised serious doubts about proposals to exempt from any future prohibition cluster munitions with self-destruct or self-neutralization mechanisms.[7] With respect to a proposal to allow retention of cluster munitions for training and research purposes, Ireland said there may be some value in having “a limited number of live ammunition available,” but “any exemptions [for training and research] must be subject to rigorous transparency and validation mechanisms.” [8]

At the Wellington conference in February 2008, Ireland supported the approach of starting with a broad definition against which any exclusions from prohibition should be specified, if necessary. Ireland noted six criteria had been proposed either individually or in combinations from delegations calling for amendments to the definition, and stated that no single criterion in itself would justify exclusion. Ireland argued that, if necessary, these criteria would need to be applied in combination in order to reduce the humanitarian hazards “to a level commensurate with unitary munitions.” Ireland also expressed concerns about systems that remain affixed to aircraft and that dispense “bomblets.” Ireland argued that these systems have the same effects as cluster munitions and should be subject to the same prohibition.[9]

On 3 March 2008, Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund, responsible for financing Ireland’s national pension requirements, announced it would withdraw €27 million from investments in six international companies involved in producing cluster munitions.[10] Then- Minister of Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said, “This is a very significant move by Ireland and sends a clear message to the world in advance of the vital Croke Park conference [Dublin conference]. While not seeking to interfere with the statutory independence of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, my objective was to try and ensure that no public funds are invested in any company involved in or associated with the production of cluster munitions.”[11]

Also in March 2008, ahead of the Dublin negotiations, a network of Irish NGOs formed the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) Ireland.[12] On the Global Day of Action on cluster munitions in April 2008, over 1,000 people took part in public events in the center of Dublin.[13] In the weeks prior to the opening of the Dublin negotiations CMC Ireland members supported a “Ban Bus” speaking tour around the country to increase awareness and support for the treaty.[14] During the conference itself, events held in Dublin included a multi-faith blessing, film screenings, public talks, a public “lie down” stunt, a protest march, and a concert.[15]

On 19 May 2008, the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions opened in Croke Park stadium, a massive (85,000 seat) Gaelic football stadium in the north of the city. Just before the opening ceremony, Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin accepted a total of 704,715 petition signatures collected internationally by NGOs in 83 countries calling for a ban on cluster munitions.[16] Martin then opened the negotiations, calling on states to live up to the challenge of reaching agreement on a convention in just two weeks time. Minister Martin concluded by saying, “The legacy we all seek from this conference will be to know that together we have created a future unknown survivor, one symbolic person who, thanks to the new convention, will not fall victim to a cluster munition.” [17]

Ambassador Daithi O’Ceallaigh of Ireland served as President of the conference and headed the Irish delegation which was comprised of 16 foreign affairs and defense officials. From the outset, O’Ceallaigh told delegates that he did not intend to allow the introduction of amendments in square brackets into the draft convention text.[18] Instead proposals would be discussed in detail in the Committee of the Whole and, if consensus was found to exist, his intention was to issue a consensus text as a Presidency Text. The conference got underway with a detailed article-by-article discussion of the draft. O’Ceallaigh said that where it was not possible to reach general agreement on an article in the Committee of the Whole, he would appoint a colleague to hold informal consultations.[19]

By the end of the third day, the treaty had been read in its entirety and O’Ceallaigh had appointed Friends of the President to convene informal consultations on issues relating to interoperability (Ambassador Christine Schraner of Switzerland), definitions (Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand), stockpiling (Ambassador Steffen Kongstad of Norway), clearance (Lieutenant Colonel Jim Burke of Ireland), victim assistance (Markus Reiterer of Austria), and compliance (Xolisa Mabhongo of South Africa). The Friends of the President started to convene informal discussions to consider text proposals, almost of all of which were open to NGO delegates.[20] O’Ceallaigh’s Irish team held discussions with delegates on other issues including transparency measures, national implementation measures, settlement of disputes, and meetings of States Parties.

At the national level, Ireland remained strong on key issues such as the definition and scope of the prohibition, and a transition period, which it staunchly opposed. It again highlighted the need to address explosive bomblets dispersed or released by dispensers and proposed amendments to the convention to facilitate this.[21] There was concern among NGOs that Ireland was not taking a strong enough position against proposals to add treaty language to facilitate “interoperability” (joint military operations with states not party).

At the beginning of the second week of negotiations, O’Ceallaigh reminded delegates that “substantive work must finish on the evening of Wednesday 28 May” in order to allow preparation of authentic texts in the official languages, to be formally adopted on the morning of Friday 30 May.[22] He appointed a Friend of the Chair for the preamble of the draft convention (Ambassador Caroline Millar of Australia). O’Ceallaigh invited discussion on contentious issues including the recommendation that a new article on interoperability be inserted in the draft text. Bilateral consultations and informal discussions on the contentious issues including definitions and interoperability then continued, though not without difficulties.[23]

On the morning of Wednesday 28 May, O’Ceallaigh introduced a Presidency Paper containing a consolidated draft treaty text, which he described as “extremely ambitious” and said represented “the best balance of interests and compromise consistent with the Oslo Declaration.”[24] The draft text included a new article on interoperability, which O’Ceallaigh noted “would be too much for some but not enough for others.” He read the text article by article, highlighting changes that had been made. O’Ceallaigh then asked all delegations to carefully consider the text and reconvene in the afternoon to provide their reactions.

At 16:30, O’Ceallaigh opened the meeting by stating that he did not propose to have an article by article debate and noted that the text represented “a package of compromises for all” that no delegation will be “completely satisfied” with. With that in mind, O’Ceallaigh expressed hope that delegations would find the text broadly acceptable and support it. He concluded by asking delegations to agree to adopt this text and thus pave the way for its formal adoption on Friday morning.[25]

Over the next three hours a total of 71 states spoke in support of the draft text with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but with none indicating they could not adopt it. Ireland was the last state to speak, joining the consensus in support of the draft text. States listened intently as the CMC took the floor to pronounce its verdict on the text knowing that without civil society endorsement the proposed convention would lose a crucial supporter.[26] The CMC’s co-chair described the text as “extraordinary” and said it was “certain to save thousands and thousands of civilian lives for decades to come, and to provide both immediate and long-term relief and assistance to those already affected by the weapon.” The CMC particularly noted that the text was a categorical prohibition on all cluster munitions, that did not contain broad exceptions for certain types of cluster munitions, and did not contain a transition period. It also highlighted the ground-breaking provisions on victim assistance. The CMC, however, expressed disappointment with Article 21 on interoperability, describing the provision as “the only stain on the fine fabric of the treaty text.”[27]

At the end of the interventions, O’Ceallaigh said that in view of the positive reactions to his draft text, and, in the absence of objections, he proposed to adjourn the Committee of the Whole and immediately to convene the Plenary to agree to adopting the text. In the Plenary, states agreed by acclamation to adopt on 30 May the draft text set out in the Presidency Paper together with any necessary technical and editorial modifications.[28] On 30 May 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was formally adopted by acclamation.

Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin addressed the closing ceremony of the conference, paying tribute to the efforts of all delegations including the CMC and its contingent of cluster munition survivors, and expressing pride at the central role played by Ireland, particularly Ambassador O’Ceallaigh. He urged delegates to “set three immediate goals” for the “far-reaching and comprehensive Convention, namely swift ratification, universalisation ultimately by all UN member states, and implementation not least of the provisions on victim assistance and clearance.”[29]

A total of 107 states adopted the convention on 30 May 2008, while another 20 observers participated in the Dublin Diplomatic Conference.[30] The CMC delegation to the conference was comprised of 284 campaigners from 61 countries, including more than a dozen cluster munition and landmine survivors from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Serbia, Tajikistan, Vietnam, and Western Sahara.[31]

As the most important Oslo Process event, the CMC put an enormous amount of energy into the Dublin negotiations, undertaking an array of lobbying work, media outreach, and public events. CMC delegates provided technical advice to the diplomats, made interventions in the formal sessions and disseminated materials including critiques of treaty proposals, as well as a daily update and a newsletter. CMC members confronted the United States for not participating in the Dublin negotiations, but still seeking to negatively influence the proceedings.[32] Campaigners held workshops and discussions on a future signature and ratification campaign for the convention. A CMC Action Plan for rapid entry into force of the convention was disseminated to delegates at the close of the conference.[33]

On 22 October 2008, Ireland introduced national legislation on cluster munitions and the implementation of the convention into its Lower House (Dáil Éireann). The Cluster Munitions and Anti-personnel Mines Bill 2008 proceeded to the Upper House (Seanad Éireann) after minor amendments on 18 November.[34]

On 2 December 2008, on the eve of the signing conference in Oslo, Ireland enacted the bill as Act Number 20. The legislation also served as Ireland’s instrument of ratification, allowing it both to sign and ratify on the same day. The law prohibits use, development, production, acquisition, possession, and transfer of cluster munitions and explosive bomblets, and contains other provisions to implement the convention. Those guilty of offenses may be fined up to €1 million and imprisoned up to ten years. The law explicitly prohibits the investment of public money in cluster munitions producers, making Ireland the second country in the world to prohibit investment in cluster munitions.[35] Concerns have been raised about the treatment of the issue of interoperability (Article 21 of the convention).[36]

Upon signing the convention on 3 December 2008, Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform Dermot Ahern highlighted two particularly significant elements in the journey to Oslo. First, he noted the speed of the process from start to finish. Second, he drew attention to the way in which the goal of the process had been achieved. “A core group of committed States, flanked by a much greater number of sympathetic States, worked closely with civil society and international organisations to bring about a comprehensive humanitarian treaty. The cross-fertilisation, stimulation and mutual respect enriched and sustained the process. The indomitable spirit of the Ban Advocates, overcoming terrible injuries to bear witness to the horrors of cluster munitions, inspired us throughout,” Minister Ahern affirmed. Ireland encouraged others to follow its example and ratify the convention rapidly to ensure its entry into force and implementation.[37]

On 18 March 2009, at a special event on the convention at UN Headquarters in New York, Ireland reaffirmed its commitment to promote the convention, stating that it was a priority issue for the Irish government.[38]

During CCW negotiations on cluster munitions in 2008, Ireland served as Friend of the Chair on Definitions. However, Ireland remained skeptical of the likely outcome. In September 2008, Ireland stated that it was committed to a higher standard than was likely to be feasible in the CCW. The draft instrument under consideration, with its optional prohibitions, was only as strong as the weakest option, Ireland said.[39] In November, as the CCW negotiations were scheduled to conclude, Ireland stated that it continued to have serious concerns over the draft, of which many provisions, including those on failure rates and transition periods, were unacceptable.[40] It joined 25 other states in issuing a statement expressing opposition to the weak draft text on a possible CCW protocol on cluster munitions, indicating it was an unacceptable step back from the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[41] CCW States Parties were unable to reach agreement and decided to continue work in 2009.

[1] Pax Christi Netherlands, “Conference Report: CMC International Launch Conference,” 12–13 November 2003.

[2] Statement by Amb. Paul Kavanagh, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 17 November 2006.

[3] Proposal to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument the Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Presented by Austria, Holy See, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/CONF.III/WP.1, Geneva, 25 October 2006.

[4] Declaration on Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/CONF.III/WP.18, Geneva, 17 November 2006.

[5] Statement by Amb. Paul Kavanagh, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 17 November 2006.

[6] Statement of Ireland, Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions, 22 February 2007. Notes by CMC/WILPF.

[7] It said self-destruct mechanisms “may indeed lead to an incremental reduction in failure rates [but] such improvements are likely to have a marginal impact and would not justify exemption from prohibition …. Those who support the [self-destruct] option must demonstrate that such mechanisms would not expose civilians to ‘unacceptable harm.’” It said self-neutralization mechanisms “may expose civilians and clearance personnel to greater danger by inducing a false sense of security.” Statement of Ireland, Session on Definitions, Lima Conference on Cluster Munitions, 24 May 2007.

[8] Statement of Ireland, Lima Conference, 24 May 2007. Unofficial transcription by WILPF.

[9] Statement of Ireland, Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions, 19 February 2008. Notes by CMC.

[10] Deaglán De Bréadún, “Pension fund to remove money from bomb firms,” Irish Times, 17 March 2008.

[11] Ibid.

[12] See CMC Ireland, www.stopclusterbombs.ie. This group includes Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, Centre for Peace and Development Studies Limerick, Children in Crossfire, Concern Worldwide, Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign, Frontline, Galway One World Centre, Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs, Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation, Oxfam Ireland, Pax Christi Ireland, Trócaire, and UNICEF Ireland.

[13] CMC Ireland, “The Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs,” 19 April 2008, www.stopclusterbombs.ie.

[14] See “Ireland,” The Ban Bus blog, thebanbus.org.

[15] CMC, “Participant Handbook,” Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, 2008.

[16] CMC, “The World is Watching: We Want a Ban,” Cluster Ban News, Edition 2, 21 May 2008.

[17] Statement by Micheál Martin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 19 May 2008.

[18] Summary Record of the Plenary, Opening Plenary and the First Session: 19 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/SR/1, 18 June 2008.

[19] Summary Record of the Committee of the Whole, First Session: 19 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/CW/SR/1, 18 June 2008.

[20] On 21 May 2008, NGOs were denied access to closed informal discussions on interoperability. CMC, “Day 3 – Camps Emerge on Key Issues – Dublin Diplomatic Conference,” 21 May 2008, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[21] Statement of Ireland, Committee of the Whole, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 19 May 2008; and Statement of Ireland, Informal Discussions on Article 1, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 21 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[22] Summary Record of the Committee of the Whole, Tenth Session: 26 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/CW/SR/10, 18 June 2008.

[23] In one incident, delegates packed into a room meant for twenty people with few microphones making it close to impossible for states opposed to interoperability provisions to intervene, and the dissenting opinions of many states were not heard or reflected in the Friend of the President’s final paper. CMC, “Day 7 – Waiting – Dublin Diplomatic Conference,” 27 May 2008, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[24] Summary Record of the Committee of the Whole, Fifteenth Session: 28 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/CW/SR/15, 18 June 2008; and CMC, “Day 8 – Convention!!! – Dublin Diplomatic Conference,” 28 May 2008, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[25] Summary Record of the Committee of the Whole, Sixteenth Session: 28 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/CW/SR/16, 18 June 2008.

[26] Aotearoa New Zealand CMC, “Dublin Day 8 – Delivering the Deal,” Blog, 28 May 2008, www.stopclusterbombs.org.nz.

[27] CMC Statement delivered by Stephen Goose, CMC Co-Chair, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 28 May 2008, www.hrw.org. The CMC believed that “if the text had been opened up, it would have gotten stronger and not weaker,” but it respected the judgment of the president and many states that this was not the best way forward.

[28] Summary Record of the Plenary, Third Session: 28 May 2008, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/SR/3, 18 June 2008.

[29] Statement by Micheál Martin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Closing Ceremony, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, 30 May 2008, www.clustermunitionsdublin.ie.

[30] List of Delegates, Dublin Diplomatic Conference, CCM/INF/1, 30 May 2008, www.clustermunitionsdublin.ie.

[31] Aotearoa New Zealand CMC, “Report on Activities: Dublin Conference on Cluster Munitions, 19–30 May 2008,” July 2008, p. 5, www.stopclusterbombs.org.nz.

[32] On 23 May 2008, campaigners demonstrated outside the US embassy in Dublin and on 26 May, US Senator Patrick Leahy and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams spoke at a lunchtime panel on US cluster munition policy. CMC, “U.S. Leadership and Set-Backs,” Cluster Ban News, 28 May 2008.

[33] CMC, “Dublin Action Plan to Achieve Rapid Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” 30 May 2008, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[34] CMC, “National Legislation Banning Cluster Munitions – Ireland,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[35] “Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act 2008,” Houses of the Oireachtas, Act Number 20 of 2008, www.oireachtas.ie.

[36] CMC, “National Legislation Banning Cluster Munitions – Ireland,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[37] Statement by Dermot Ahern, Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 3 December 2008.

[38] CMC, “Report on the Special Event on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, United Nations, New York, 18 March 2009.”

[39] Statement of Ireland, Fourth 2008 Session of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 4 September 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[40] Statement of Ireland, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 4 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[41] Statement delivered by Costa Rica on behalf of Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Uruguay, and Venezuela, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 5 November 2008.