"Both a Splash and a Seachange" the legacy of Galway 2020 should be inspiration but also infrastructure


On Wednesday the Seanad hosted a special debate on Galway's role as European Capital of Culture in 2020. 

Speaking in the debate, Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins praised the wide participation of so many in making the bid successful and emphasised the importance of maintaining that inclusive participation as plans progress. 

"So many diverse individuals and groups poured their energy and ideas into the Making Waves Bid and it is important that they remain deeply involved."  She suggested that it might be good to see more artist representation on the Galway 2020 Board as their voices and insights are so crucial to the success of the year and also noted that "the year should actively engage and reflect all generations of cultural participants and producers."

Senator Higgins highlighted "the importance of culture and the right to culture for the social fabric of Europe." and welcomed the outward looking nature of Galway2020 "as an open invitation to come and share ideas and experiences."  She spoke about the "Inis - island conversations" festival as an example of 'international conversations in local places" and warmly welcomed the "small towns, big ideas" initiative launched this week.  "So many of these towns have been affected by emigration. We want our young people and indeed people of all ages to have their imaginations sparked not only in terms of all the creative possibilities but also in that they can imagine living their lives in the west of Ireland. For this reason I think the 'ripples' programme within the Bid is particularly exciting"

Senator Higgins spoke about the power of spectacle but also about the need for proper supports for artists. "Galway 2020 should deliver a splash but also a seachange.  Its legacy must be one of inspiration but also infrastructure. That kind of long term impact has been one of the hallmarks of successful capitals of culture".

Senator Higgins also expressed concern at the proposed new bylaws on busking which could place overly strict constraints on Street Performance in the city.

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Senator Higgins joins EPF colleagues in calling on governments to ensure sexual and reproductive rights are protected during the COVID-19 emergency

Even during a crisis, women have sexual and reproductive healthcare needs which cannot wait. Governments should be supporting access to essential SRHR services - unfortunately some are actively using this as a chance to block it. As a member of the the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, I have been pressing governments across Europe to actively support access to SHRR in their own countries and across the wider world. Last week we produced a report on ’Sexual and Reproductive Rights during the COVID-19 pandemic’ which described how many women and girls are being left without essential medical services such as contraception and abortion care, HIV and STI testing, reproductive cancer screenings, and adequate pre and post-natal healthcare.

An IPPF survey showed 5.633 community-based care clinics closing across 64 countries, with African countries being the most heavily impacted. EU member states should be giving humanitarian and health support and including SHRR. In terms of particularly time-sensitive healthcare such as abortion, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Portugal have made provisions for remote support of medical abortions, while Poland and Romania seem to be using this crisis to undermine women’s access to rights and reproductive healthcare.

Amid this crisis we have also seen a huge increase in sexual and gender-based violence, an issue that all governments must address head on.