Ireland backs reform of UN Security Council veto

General assembly to meet within 10 days when permanent member blocks resolution

Ireland has backed reforms to the operation of the system of vetoes which can be applied by any of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Under changes agreed on Tuesday the wider membership of the United Nations - the general assembly - would have to meet and debate the issue within 10 days whenever action proposed by the Security Council is blocked by a permanent member applying its veto .

The new measure is considered procedural but its supporters maintain it will facilitate holding the permanent members to greater account for the use of their veto.

The five permanent members of the Security Council who have the power of veto over measures are the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France.


Ireland is currently a member of the Security Council and retains its seat until the end of this year.

Its representatives welcomed the adoption of the reforms on Tuesday. Ambassador to the United Nations Geraldine Byrne Nason said the move represented "a great day for accountability and transparency".

She said the wider United Nations membership was “long overdue a voice when the will of the Security Council is blocked by the use of the veto”.

She said the new changes to be introduced on foot of the resolution passed on Tuesday “goes a long way to achieving this”.

Ireland was a member of a core group of states, led by Liechtenstein, who proposed reforms known as the "veto initiative". This would provide the general assembly with an enhanced role whenever the Security Council was blocked from acting by the use of the veto by one of the five permanent members.

On Thursday the United Nations general assembly adopted this resolution by consensus - without a vote. The measure was backed by over 80 co-sponsors.

Under the resolution, the general assembly will now automatically convene within ten days of proposed action by the Security Council being blocked by the use of the veto by a permanent member.

This will apply in relation to all vetoes applied, regardless of their substance.

In such circumstances the Security Council would be invited to submit a special report to the general assembly and those members who have used the veto will be invited to speak.

A veto has been applied by a permanent member of the Security Council on 17 occasions over the last five years alone.

Last year Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on climate and security brought forward by Ireland and Niger, which was co-sponsored by 113 member states.

More recently a draft resolution on Russia's aggression in Ukraine was also vetoed

On other occasions the mere threat of the use of the veto has influenced or prevented Security Council action.

“Ireland has consistently advocated for the veto initiative for many years, and as a Security Council member we support efforts to ensure that those who block the Council’s essential work are held to account,” said Ms Byrne Nason.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent