BaileNuachtCartlann Aitheasc agus Preaseisiúintí

Statement by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D. on World Peace Day 1 January 2011


The quest for peace demands the commitment and tireless engagement of governments, of civil society and of all men and women of good-will. The appeal of that objective is well expressed in the words of Pope Benedict: "Peace brings to full fruition the deepest qualities and potentials of the human person, the qualities which can change the world and make it better. It gives hope for a future of justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and moral poverty."

The challenges for achieving world peace remain as daunting as ever. However, our own experience on the island of Ireland and the peaceful construction of the European Union show that peace is not an illusion and that it can be achieved, even after centuries of hatred and conflict.

At this time of the year, it is appropriate to recall the special contribution of those who serve as peace-keepers in missions carried out under the auspices of the United Nations. Ireland is proud of its soldiers and Gardaí who are continuing the long tradition of professional service around the world to secure peace and stability as an expression of our commitment to the cause of world peace.

The past year has seen positive developments in the area of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the successful review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with which Ireland has a long and close association. However, much remains to be done to address ever-continuing threats. The precarious nature of the peace on the Korean peninsula, with the attendant nuclear threat from the Democratic Republic of North Korea, has been highlighted in recent weeks, while other States have also failed to cooperate in ensuring compliance with the international non-proliferation regime. All of us have a responsibility to ensure that the nuclear threat does not become even more menacing.

Peace and Human Rights are indivisible. I, therefore, welcome the focus of His Holiness pope Benedict XVI on the question of freedom of religion in his message for World Peace Day and support his assertion that: The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person.

The contribution of faith communities has been profound: Pope Benedict speaks "of the religious dimension of culture, built up over centuries thanks to the social and especially ethical contributions of religion. This dimension is in no way discriminatory towards those who do not share its beliefs, but instead reinforces social cohesion, integration and solidarity." Beyond that societal contribution, there is the inherent right of the person to religious belief and practice, a right which the Pope's message expresses as the ability "freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances."

It is the duty of governments to ensure that all are afforded the right and freedom to profess and practice their religion of choice, without obstruction or harassment. At the same time, governments must respect and fully protect the rights of those who profess no religion.

Pope Benedict observes that "A healthy dialogue between civil and religious institutions is fundamental for the integral development of the human person and social harmony." The Irish Government values the principle and practice of structured dialogue with faith communities and non-confessional bodies as part of its duty to build up the conditions for peace in our day.