When the Department of Foreign Affairs was caught out breaching Covid rules, with staff drinking champagne and celebrating in Iveagh House during lockdown, it blamed “a moment of happiness” for the incident.
hat moment of happiness was due to civil servants – led by secretary general Niall Burgess, now Ireland’s ambassador to France, who took the infamous photo that got the department in trouble – winning a seat on the UN Security Council.
For officials and the department, it was a big achievement. Months of lobbying for votes had paid off.
During ‘Champagnegate’, the Government was keen to emphasize how much of a good thing it was for Ireland to have a seat on the council.
Fast forward to September 2022 and the Taoiseach stood at the UN General Assembly in New York, saying Ireland is “deeply frustrated” by the Security Council’s “failures” on climate change.
He called on the council to accept its responsibilities and blamed the lack of political will.
He also said how, even though the council holds meetings each month on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and even though Ireland spends each meeting pushing for a two-state solution, it is no closer to one.
“We are no closer today to that aim than we were when we joined the council 18 months ago and, truth be told, long before that,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney was also quick to criticize the Security Council, despite his own officials working tirelessly to win a seat on it two years ago.
He said the veto system needs change and reform but that it is better to have a Security Council than not.
It’s an interesting shift of tone from a Government which has held a seat on the council for the past 18 months. An argument could be made that if the council has failures, Ireland is partly to blame.
For the Taoiseach, it was a strong intervention that is likely to dictate future attitudes to the Security Council.
His second US trip as Taoiseach – the first being the disastrous March trip to Washington, when he caught Covid and didn’t make it into the White House – was not without fault.
A bird struck his airplane on the way to New York from Dublin and the flight had to be diverted back to Ireland. When it landed in John F Kennedy Airport around four hours later than initially scheduled, Mr. Martin had missed arguably the most important part of this trip – a chance to meet Joe Biden at an official reception.
Instead, Minister Coveney took the wheel and did the honors.
The two men spoke about Liz Truss, and Minister Coveney reiterated an invitation for Mr. Biden to visit Ireland.
“I said to him that there is a country waiting for a visit and he would be extraordinarily welcome when he comes back home, effectively,” he told the media later.
Ireland would welcome Joe Biden, surely. But would Ireland be welcome back to the Security Council? It remains to be seen.