Ireland sets its sights on the UN Security Council in 2021.
Last time around, Ireland had to fend off the Italians in order to secure a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. In a campaign aimed at securing a return to the council in 2021 - this after a vote in 2020 – Ireland will again be competing with countries that are close friends on an ordinary day.
Canada is one of them, Norway another, and there is also San Marino, which can easily outmatch the old sod when it comes to delivering the clarion cry that the council needs to hear more from the world’s small nations.
The Security Council’s rotating members are drawn from blocs.
Ireland sits in the Western European and Other States bloc. As such, it doesn’t have to compete with the likes of, say, Bhutan.
But the entire General Assembly membership, currently 193 nations, gets to vote so the campaign for support extends well beyond Europeans shores.
In order to obtain a two-year membership back in 2001, Irish diplomats went boldly beyond where they had gone before in search of support.
As a 2017 Irish Times report put it: “No palm tree in Oceania was left unclimbed,” this being a reference to Irish lobbying of tiny Pacific island states that have votes of equal value to major nations such as, well, the United States.
So it will be back to Tuvalu and Vanuatu in the next couple of years.
If nothing else, campaigning Irish emissaries can add to their exotic passport stamp collection.
Back in New York, meanwhile, the Irish campaign will be headquartered at the Irish Mission to the United Nations.
This is an oft-overlooked corner of global Irish diplomacy, at least in media terms.
But the effort to make a return to the council is likely to prompt more interest, not only from Irish media outlets, but also Canadian, Norwegian and whatever passes for CNN in San Marino, an enclave entirely surrounded by the aforementioned Italy.
The Irish Echo quizzed the Italians back before the 2001 vote, asking them why they were so intent on shoving the Irish aside, this after Rome had occupied a rotating seat just a few years previously in 1995/96.
A very suave diplomat took the Echo on an historical bus tour back to the Roman Empire and gave the distinct impression that Rome still considered itself a major power, at least in the Mediterranean world.
As it happens, Italy is currently a rotating member of the council so Dublin will not have to go all Huns and Visigoths on the Azzurri this time around.
Ireland, meanwhile, will be going for a fourth stint on the council having won that seat in 2001 – with help from Tuvalu et al. - and before that 1981 and 1962.
With this in mind, it is probably fair to expect that Ireland will row in behind the majority of member states in high profile upcoming General Assembly votes.
This was the case recently when Dublin ignored warnings from the Trump administration of possible retaliation and voted with a majority of UN member nations to reject Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, and President Trump’s stated intention of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city.
Ireland joined with 127 other nations in that vote.
The General Assembly vote – in what was billed as an emergency session – was 128-9, two of the latter tally being the U.S. and Israel. 35 member nations abstained, and 21 countries did not turn up to cast a ballot.
The other seven minority voting members were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
Some palm-fronded destinations in that lot.
Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, meanwhile, is Geraldine Byrne Nason.
A former ambassador to France, Byrne Nason was appointed to the UN post last August.
It will be her task to bend ears in New York towards Ireland’s desire for a rotating seat.
Her proficiency in French will do no harm at all.
A little Italian might help too.