One small step as Ireland pledges not to make claims in outer space

Treaty requires space be used for peaceful purposes with no stationing of weapons of mass destruction

The Government is to ask the Dáil to ratify an international treaty which pledges signatories to the peaceful use of outer space and which promises to forego any territorial claims to the moon or other celestial bodies, the Cabinet decided on Tuesday.

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) is to be laid before the Dáil shortly.

The treaty was initially signed by Ireland in 1967, but the Attorney General has recently advised that it must be ratified by a vote of TDs.

More than100 countries are parties to the treaty, including all the countries with space programmes.


Asked if any extra terrestrials had signed the treaty, a Government spokesman responded: “Not yet.”

The treaty requires that outer space is to be used for peaceful purposes, and no stationing of weapons of mass destruction is permitted. Nor are countries permitted to claim any part of space, or any celestial bodies (including the moon). International law, including the UN Charter applies in outer space, the treaty says.

It also stipulates that astronauts should be regarded as “envoys of mankind” and “should receive in the case of accidents or emergency assistance and return of themselves and their vehicle to their home country”.

States are liable for damage caused to other States in pursuit of space activities and they are responsible for the national space activities of non-governmental entities, a provision which would apply to private space flights, which have become a reality in recent years.

The proposal was brought to Cabinet by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar.

According to an explanatory note provided by his department: “Space is an area of growing importance for Ireland. The number of Irish-based companies engaged with the European Space Agency has grown by almost 60 per cent in the last five years: from 55 companies in 2015 up to 87 in 2020. The national space strategy for enterprise provides a roadmap for future investment in the space sector and our continued membership of ESA is an integral element of that strategy.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times