IRELAND will take a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for the first time next year.
A hotly contested election took place at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and saw Ireland beat off Greece and Sweden to join the US and Germany on the 47-member panel.
The council was set up in 2006 by the UN General Assembly and is the main human rights body of the UN. It meets three times throughout the year in Geneva to tackle human rights issues across the world. It can also meet under special circumstances at the request of 16 or more council members.
In a statement reacting to the news, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said: "Membership of the Council is a signal honour and privilege for Ireland. It testifies to the strong reputation we have built up in the area of international human rights advocacy. More widely, it reflects the esteem in which Ireland is held as a UN member and as a fearless champion of the values which underpin the UN."
Mr Gilmore added: "Serving on the Council over the next three years will allow us to play a much more active role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide and to make a distinctly Irish contribution to that effort."
Ireland's three-year-term will begin on January 1, 2013.