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Shackleton Museum Welcomes Commitment by Coveney to Sign up to Antarctic Treaty

9th December 2021
Athy museum said it was particularly fitting in the approach to the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s death in January 2022
Explorer Ernest Shackleton - The Athy museum founded in his honour said said it was particularly fitting in the approach to the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s death in January 2022

The Shackleton Museum in Co Kildare has welcomed a commitment by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to ensure Ireland signs up to the Antarctic Treaty.

The Athy museum said it was particularly fitting in the approach to the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s death in January 2022.

Coveney was speaking in the Seanad on a Green Party motion seeking to secure Ireland’s accession, which secured all-party support on Wednesday night.

Committed - Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney Committed - Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Coveney said he was “very committed to getting this done", but said there were “serious issues” including legislative and policy requirements that needed assessing.

"We need to be credible if we're going to do this properly,” he said, setting a target date of the end of the first quarter of 2022 and promising to report back to the Seanad.

The Seanad motion to join the treaty, which 53 states have signed up to, was introduced by Green Party senator Vincent Martin.

The treaty, described as a positive example of multilateralism, commits to access to Antarctica for peaceful purposes only.

It promotes international scientific cooperation, and agreement to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

The Green Party motion urged the Government to complete its assessment of the necessary commitments for accession to the Antarctic Treaty; to commit to taking all necessary steps to accede as soon as possible.

The motion also requested the Minister for Foreign Affairs to provide an update on progress made by his department in the assessment of the commitments necessary for accession to the treaty.

The Government agreed not to oppose the motion, and it received all-party support in the Seanad.

The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) comprises the Antarctic Treaty (1959), the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals 1972, and the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection 1991.

Ireland considered joining the Antarctic treaty system over ten years ago, but it was found that complex legislation would have to be enacted first, making it a “criminal offence for any citizen of Ireland to commit in Antarctica any act or omission which, if committed in Ireland, would be a criminal offence in the State”.

It was also found that “significant commitments” would have to be made by a number of government departments.

The Shackleton Museum chair and board said the Seanad motion was “particularly welcome as we approach the centenary of the death of Ireland’s leading polar explorer, Ernest Shackleton in January”.

“Shackleton is the key person in Ireland’s links to the Antarctic and it is particularly fitting as his expeditions all had important science and climate objectives,” it said.

Published in Marine Science
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
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  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
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  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
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  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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