IT WAS PERHAPS appropriate, in view of the season, that Ireland's most successful move to date to help the U.N. strategy for peace should have been made at Christmas time. Its record at the United Nations may have been slightly erratic during the past few years, but on two vitally important questions in recent months—financing peacekeeping operations and the future of Rhodesia—it has a record of which it can be reasonably proud.
The initiative by Mr. Frank Aiken, the Irish Minister for External Affairs, resulted in the passing of a measure in the General Assembly's Special Political Committee designed to ensure that any small nation seeking peace-keeping support should have it. This it hopes to do by laying down the law that there should be a scale of assessments for mandatory financing of all future peace-keeping operations by all members, according to their economic viability.
Disagreements about who should pay for what—and how much -have been at the centre of much of the Security Council wrangling in recent years and have at times, as U Thant has pointed out, threatened to bring the whole organisation to the verge of bankruptcy. It is a measure of the Irish achievement that its proposals were carried by a useful majority despite the opposition of Russia and other influential countries and the abstention of Britain and France.
IT HAS A LIMITED VALUE, unfortunately. It is not a resolution of the General Assembly itself and, even if it were, the chances are that Russian arguments on the Security Council would delay its implementation even further. Mr. Aiken, however, realises this, and is quite content to hold his fire for the moment. He has achieved a moral victory and he is hardly likely to want to jeopardise progress towards a further solution by forcing the issue in the General Assembly itself, where, in the current climate of opinion. he might well fail to get the necessary two-thirds majority.
For the moment, yet another special committee, composed of some 33 nations, is examining the whole question of financing the U.N. peace-keeping operations. They can hardly afford to ignore the results of the Irish delegation's gruelling, two-year battle to achieve a more equitable distribution of the responsibility for peace.
It is being ignored, however, much nearer home—in Leinster House. of all places. Just before the Dail rose for the Christmas recess it gave the Estimate for the Department of External Affairs formal assent without even the suggestion of a debate. Ironically. they did so at a time when Mr. Aiken, in New York, was just about to achieve his most significant success for two years.
Cost of Embassy
THE FACT SEEMS to be that the legislature cares very little about external affairs. Ostensibly, there will be room for a debate on the estimate in the New Year, but it is quite likely that it won't even be taken advantage of. And, even if it is, the highest the level of debate can be expected to rise is in connection with the projected cost of our embassy in Nigeria—one of the hardy annual rabble-rousers on the floor of the House.
There are one or two exceptions to this. Some members of the Fina Gael Front Bench have acquired an interest in the Common Market, and would like to see the Minister for External Affairs spending less of his time in New York and more in Brussels. How realistic they are remains to be seen: meanwhile, it is quite clear that the vast majority of the elected representatives of the people regard a foreign policy as something little better than an extravagance, or at very best an optional extra. This sort of an approach will hardly do. "We are all members one of the other," as St. Paul says, and a professedly Christian country might do worse than to examine its responsibilities in conscience towards those other parts of the world where human beings are in distress.
Creative artists' fund
MEANWHILE, the Government has been doing something realistic about the plight of some people nearer home. In the Senate the other day, the final stamp of approval was given
to a rather unusual document an order designed to provide for the establishment of a new fund to help creative artists.
It will enable the Arts Council which struggles along at the moment on a budget which represents one of the lowest per capita contributions by any European Government for broadly cultural purposes—to establish and administer a fund from which annuities may be paid to creative workers in the arts of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, drama, literature, design, and in the fine and applied arts generally, in recognition of outstanding creative services in one or more of these arts in Ireland.