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To boldly go…Dáil to vote on international treaty to only use outer space for peaceful means

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The treaty bans countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in space. Photo: European Southern Observatory/PA

The treaty bans countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in space. Photo: European Southern Observatory/PA

The treaty bans countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in space. Photo: European Southern Observatory/PA

The Dáil is to vote on an international Outer Space Treaty committing Ireland to only use the Moon, other planets and the rest of universe for peaceful means.

TDs will be asked to vote on a motion signing Ireland up to the international agreement which aims to ensure outer space is not used to harm anyone living on Earth.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar brought the motion to Cabinet which seeks Dáil approval to sign the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty).

The treaty commits Ireland to ensuring the exploration and use of outer space is open to all states but is to be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries.

It also states that outer space is to be used “exclusively for peaceful purposes” and prohibits countries from stationing weapons of mass destruction in space.

Countries signed up to the treaty are banned from making any claim of national sovereignty in outer space.

It also says astronauts are “envoys of mankind” and in the case of accidents or emergencies should be assisted and then returned to their home country with their spaceship.

Countries involved in space exploration agree to avoid harmful contamination of the Earth or interference with the activities of other states.

Visits to space stations are also to be on a reciprocal basis and subject to reasonable notice.

Space activities will be reported to the UN and the international scientific community “to the greatest extent feasible and practicable”.

A Government spokesperson said outer space is an “area of growing importance for Ireland”. He said the number of Irish-based companies engaged with the European Space Agency (ESA) has grown by almost 60pc in the last five year - from 55 companies in 2015 up to 87 in 2020.

“The national space strategy for enterprise provides a roadmap for future investment in the space sector and our continued membership of ESA is an integral element of that strategy. The additional funding being provided through the Supplementary Estimate will help further the objectives of the national space strategy,” he said.

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“The Department of Enterprise has been undertaking a legal and policy analysis to ensure that Ireland has a supportive framework in relation to potential future launches of space objects for commercial or educational purposes,” he added.

Ireland previously signed and ratified the two agreements, the Outer Space Agreement in 1967 and the Liability Convention in 1972. At the time of their signing, they were laid before the Dáil in compliance with the Constitution. The Attorney General advised that formal Dáil approval is required for both agreements.


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