Ireland: Frank Aiken's early steps to contain nuclear proliferation

Thumbnail Image
O'Driscoll, Mervyn
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
This chapter underscores the centrality of Frank Aiken, the Irish minister for external affairs, in laying the groundwork for contemporary conceptions of nonproliferation as a threat to international stability and order. Aiken emerged as the driving force in manufacturing universal support for nonproliferation at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) from 1958 to 1961. The chapter establishes how Irish identity and neutrality acted as diplomatic assets in the Irish team’s labors. The Irish resolutions were just one part of Aiken’s and Ireland’s wider efforts to relieve Cold War tensions and point global politics toward cooperative behaviors and solutions. They also converged with UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold’s vision for the UN and fitted into the pattern of ‘middle powers’ playing bridgebuilding and mediation roles. Ironically, the primary challenge that Aiken encountered was to convince those with which Ireland had ideological affinity—namely, the United States and NATO—that nonproliferation was in their best interests. After the attainment of the landmark UNGA Resolution 1665 (XIV) in 1961, the Irishman adopted a pragmatic line—that the resolution provided the basic framework for a global pact, but the nuclear powers, notably the United States and the USSR, were best positioned to negotiate it and cajole allies, associates, and the nonaligned.
Ireland , Frank Aiken , Nuclear proliferation
O'Driscoll, M. (2023) Ireland: Frank Aiken's early steps to contain nuclear proliferation, in Lottaz, P. and Iwama, Y. (eds.) Neutral Europe and the Creation of the Nonproliferation Regime. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 85-112. doi: 10.4324/9781003310563-7
© 2023, the Author. All rights reserved. This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Neutral Europe and the Creation of the Nonproliferation Regime on 3 November 2023, available online: