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Irish depleted uranium ban bill sails through Senate with cross party support

A Private Members Bill that would ban all weapons containing depleted uranium in Ireland has passed through the upper house – making it only the second time a Private Members Bill has done so. The bill will now be considered by the parliament’s lower house.
18 November 2010 - ICBUW

Green Party Chairman Dan Boyle’s Prohibition of Depleted Uranium Weapons Bill 2009 passed its fifth parliamentary stage with flying colours last night after receiving praise from senators from across the political spectrum and an endorsement from Dick Roche, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Irish government has decided not to oppose the bill’s passage and no Senator spoke against it.

Senator Dan Boyle Green Party Chair Senator Dan Boyle

Speaking in the debate, Roche said: “Senator Boyle’s Bill will have the effect of enshrining in statute Government policy. This Bill is welcome because it states where we stand. When this issue next arises for discussion within the European Union, we will be able to say that Ireland has taken this step.”

Several amendments had been suggested for the bill, including one that would have widened its scope to include any weapon containing uranium – which could potentially have covered some types of nuclear weapons. This amendment was rejected as the bill’s sponsors were keen that it remained simple and focused. There was also a short discussion on whether restrictions should be placed on the Irish Defence Forces becoming engaged in conflicts where the weapons are used.

The bill will now proceed to the parliament’s lower house the Dail, where further amendments may be added, before returning to the Senate. That it is only the second Private Member’s Bill to be passed by the Senate can only be a positive sign that it will proceed swiftly through the Dail.

The bill’s sponsor Dan Boyle said: “The passage of a Private Members’ Bill in either House is a rare and significant event. I thank those who helped us to arrive at this stage. The passage of this important Bill which relates to a weapon that is horrible in its content and effect is a statement of what this House and the country can do to bring about a better world.

“We now have to consider whether we should try to bring the legislation through the Dáil in Private Members’ time. Perhaps the Government will choose to adopt the spirit of the Bill. We will have interesting negotiations on the matter. I encourage all Members to use the co-operation they enjoy with Members of the other House and legislators in other European Parliaments to try to have this concept accepted.”

Boyle went on to thank ICBUW’s partner in Ireland AFRI and the Coalition itself for their input during the legislative process.

Speaking after the bill’s passage, independent Senator David Norris, a keen advocate for the legislation criticised the UK government’s policy on the issue: ”[The UK] have withheld information, including scientific information, on the disposition of landmines, etc. They have claimed that there is no point in supporting research because of the lack of information. They are playing a damnably double game. I hope the transcript of this debate will be sent to them. I am glad the Bill is being passed tonight. I welcome the legislation and congratulate those involved.

Several Senators noted that the bill should be seen in an international context, drawing attention to the message it sent to Europe and beyond. Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin said: “It is obvious that we want to move forward on a Europe-wide basis also. We need to look at this aspect, as we want this legislation to be effective. It is in keeping with Ireland’s great tradition of introducing progressive legislation in this area.”

This sentiment was echoed by Senator Mark Dearey, who said: “I hope the passage of this Bill will encourage other countries to introduce legislation on depleted uranium weapons. A raft of other legislation will probably be required in the future because depleted uranium weapons leave behind a legacy that affect civilians, rather than military personnel.

“A lot of work remains to be done at international level and further treaties need to be agreed to deal with the explosive remnants of war. We need to address the lacuna in international treaties. If this legislation prompts our colleagues around Europe, in particular, to introduce similar measures and extend the reach of existing treaties to deal with depleted uranium weapons left behind after combat, we will have done a good evening’s work of lasting consequence.”

ICBUW it grateful to all the members of the Senate who spoke passionately in favour of this bill and in particular to Senators Boyle and Norris and Minister of State Roche, whose support has been critical for its success. We would also like to thank our colleagues at AFRI who have helped facilitate this process and we wish the bill smooth passage in the Dail.

Notes:

Senate debate transcript:
http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=SEN20101117.xml&Page=1&Ex=H8#H8

List of proposed amendments:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills/2009/4809/b4809s-scn.pdf

AFRI's statement on the passage of the bill:
http://www.afri.ie/depleted-uranium-ban-bill-passes-through-the-seanad/

Attachments

  • Prohibition of Depleted Uranium Weapons (Ireland) Bill

    35 Kb - Format pdf
    Senators Dan Boyle, Deirdre de Burca and Fiona O'Malley - Source: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills/2009/4809/b48a09s.pdf
    Irish Private Members Bill that would make it illegal to test, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, sell, deploy, retain or transfer, directly or indirectly, uranium ammunition, uranium armour-plate or other uranium weapons.