Senator Alice Mary Higgins says rights and solidarity must be ‘priority’ in next chapter for EU. Encourages people across Ireland to participate in crucial public consultation on Europe’s future

En Cofoe Document Social Media Square Picture 4
En Cofoe Document Social Media Square Picture 4

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins is one of four Oireachtas delegates to the Conference on the Future of Europe, an eight month process that hopes to shape the next chapter for the EU. Speaking at a plenary of the Conference last Saturday, Senator Higgins highlighted:

“On so many issues like equality and environment, people have been speaking up for some time and institutions have been slow to hear. Too often civil society voices have felt drowned out by corporate lobbies.”


“This process is a chance to listen to not just the ideas but to the priorities of EU citizens. Human rights are a priority. The EU’s role in driving forward workers’ rights, women’s rights, disability rights, LGBT rights is something people are proud of and that they care about. When rights and solidarity were pushed aside under austerity that damaged trust. We need to strengthen that now through a new Social Progress Protocol and through an EU that steps up and shows leadership on international rights, including the rights of refugees and the new right to a healthy environment. The EU should not be blocking a TRIPS waiver on global vaccine access.”

Senator Higgins also noted  
“Action on climate, biodiversity and the SDGs by 2030 is a clear priority for citizens across Europe, and that will require major public investment, just transition and strong policies. Those policies, including an exit from fossil fuels, must not be undermined or chilled by corporate courts, that can choose to ignore the European Court of Justice. This is also a rule of law issue.” 

Concluding her speech in Strasbourg, Senator Higgins emphasised that 
“The conversation on Europe’s future must be deeper and much more diverse. These are the decisions we make about how we live together and how we protect our future life on this shared planet and in this shared EU and in each of our communities.”

Senator Higgins is calling on people across Ireland to help shape these important decisions.
“The Conference on the Future of Europe could be an important turning point for the EU. The political, economic, social and environmental issues agreed at EU level affect all of our lives. It is vital that people and organisations concerned about these issues make their voice heard via the Conference’s digital platform or by organising an event of their own, online or in person.”

More Stories

Government needs to act on concerns on Higher Education Authority Bill

The Higher Education Authority Bill will have a major impact on staff, students & society. I proposed over 100 amendments. Following strong criticism of use of guillotine at Committee stage, Report stage has been adjourned, meaning there is still chance to improve crucial aspects of Bill.

One of the key issues I raised was the importance of trade union representation from both professional & academic staff on governance boards as well as proper national strategies to challenge the serious problem of precarious low paid work within academia.

The proposed definition of student union in the Bill is not fit for purpose & based around recognition from Minister or governing authority rather then electoral mandate from students. Students union representatives from right across country have made it clear this needs to be fixed!

The Bill will give huge amount of power & discretion to Minister, including requirement for higher education institutions to comply with future policy docs of Government. Bill must be amended to ensure appropriate independence, transparency & autonomy for both HEA & individual institutions.

Another core aspect we sought to address was embedding equality, equity, access and participation into the legislation and creating legal requirements that both HEA & individual institutions policies are furthering & empowering access to & equity in our higher education system.

The Bill continues the practice of focusing entirely on private research & not looking to public/blue skies research or public-public partnerships for research. To address issues like climate, inequality and sustainable development we need a robust public research system

The references to sustainability & environment in the Bill are woefully outdated & inadequate, coming from a 1987 pre-Rio definition of “environmental development”. I sought to include the definition based on the SDGs with acknowledgement of historical responsibility & climate justice.

Following pressure from Senators, the debate has adjourned till September & there is time for Minister Harris to work constructively with us as legislators & with stakeholders to address these & other issues. The HEA Bill will underpin higher education for years to come, we need to get it right!


Senator Higgins’s “game changing” bill on public procurement passes second stage in Seanad.

Speaking on the 'Contract Preparation & Criteria Bill', which successfully passed sec-ond stage in the Seanad today with the government abstaining and all other parties supporting, Senator Higgins said, “Procurement is an issue which impacts everyone, from the most intimate areas of our lives to the largest infrastructure.  I believe this bill can be a game-changer for the cul-ture around how we deliver public procurement in Ireland”