8th December 2021 | Press Releases

It’s time for Ireland to step up and join the international community to protect the Antarctic


Green Party Senator Vincent P Martin will bring a motion to the Seanad calling for Ireland to accede to the Antarctic Treaty, in the hopes that this may be accomplished to mark the centenary of Shackleton’s death in 1922.

Participation in the international Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) to conserve the Antarctic region and Southern Seas, has grown from the original 12 signatories in 1959 to include 53 countries representing 80% of the world’s population. Ireland is one of few EU countries not to have signed up to the treaty to date.

Senator Martin stated;

“Irish people have played significant roles in the exploration in Antarctica. The continent was first sighted by Irishman Edward Bransfield in 1820. Since then, it has been a frontier for exploration and science. Names such as Tom Crean, the McCarthy brothers, Patsy Keohane or Robert Forde are associated with pioneering expeditions. However, it is renowned explorer and native borne Kildare man Ernest Shackleton who is synonymous with the Antarctic and is buried on the Antarctic Island of South Georgia. 2022 marks the centenary of this death and represents a key opportunity for Ireland to honour his work and legacy by finally signing up to the Antarctic Treaty System.” 

It is estimated that 70% of the earth’s freshwater exists in frozen form on the continent’s landmass, and it remains one of the world’s most unspoiled natural habitats, with a vast variety of endemic marine and other species.

Senator Pauline O’Reilly said;

“While the Antarctic has no indigenous human population, the vast stock of land ice, wildlife and ecosystems means it plays a crucial role in the welfare of the planet. At its core, the Antarctic Treaty System dedicates the continent for peaceful purpose, for the benefit of science, humanity and nature and for the free exchange of scientific research. This treaty is also a template for apolitical, science-driven agreements towards peaceful objectives and it’s crucial that Ireland play its part by building on our history and connection to the Antarctic.”

Roisin Garvey added;

“Over the past 30 years, Antarctica has warmed by 1.8 degrees, three times more than the global average, which has an enormous impact on ocean acidification, sea levels and marine life. In May 2019 Dáil Éireann declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and the Irish Government recently applied for membership to the Arctic Council as an observer. The time is now for Ireland to step up and take its place on the world stage by signing the Treaty and aligning with our EU and other international partners.

In response to the Green Party motion, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told the Seanad that he was “very committed” to securing Ireland’s accession to the International Antarctic Treaty.