Covid reminds we cannot handle nuclear threat, CND leader says

Memorial event in Merrion Square marks 76th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing

The Covid-19 pandemic is a “wake-up call” that governments worldwide are totally unprepared to handle the “truly civilisation-ending threat posed by nuclear war”, the president of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has said.

Speaking at the annual commemoration for the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb in Dublin’s Merrion Square, CND president Rev Patrick Comerford warned that the world’s nuclear powers had “learned nothing” and continue spending money on weapons that are useless in the face of a global pandemic or climate change.

"Fires continue to rage across Greece and Turkey as I speak, and no amount of spending on nuclear weapons can ever protect us against global change and global warming, against the folly of world leaders who have brought this crisis to a head in our generation," said Rev Comerford speaking in front of a cherry blossom tree in Merrion Square planted in memory of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing.

‘Destroy all life’

The spread of cyberattacks also posed a real threat, he said, warning that if hackers gained control of nuclear systems, they would have the “capacity to destroy all life as we know it”.

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“Nuclear weapons protect us against none of the threats we face in the world today. They never protected us against the threats the world faced in the past. And they have no place in the world as we face the challenges of the future.”

Also speaking at Friday’s memorial, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Joe Costello warned that more than 13,000 nuclear weapons still exist in the world, most of which are more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed 80,000 people instantly and another 140,000 by the end of 1945.

Weapons proliferation

Mr Costello acknowledged Ireland's work in campaigning for nuclear disarmament, including its leading role in negotiating the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Ireland ratified this treaty on August 6th last year. However, nuclear weapons continue to be found in the United States, Russia, China, France, the UK, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, he warned.

Japanese ambassador to Ireland Mitsuru Kitano welcomed the US and Russia’s decision to extend their NewStart nuclear treaty for another five years. Reflecting on the devastation caused by the Hiroshima bomb 76 years ago, Mr Kitano called on the international community to take “immediate action together and conduct frequent dialogue on nuclear disarmament”.

“On this day I would like to appeal to renew their commitment and determination for striving towards a world without nuclear weapons,” he said.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast