First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon addresses the Seanad

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon

I was honoured to address the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of the Civil Engagement Group following her remarkable speech in the Seanad.

I spoke about the exchange of ideas and the contribution that Scottish migrants such as Connolly and Margaret Skinnedar had made to Ireland. I also drew on Scottish writer Alisdar Gray who said " a good life is fighting to be human in the face of growing difficulties" Scotland has shown a commitment to the " good society" and progressive and inclusive policies despite ...many obstacles, this includes their delivery of an annual equality statement to accompany the budget. I also commended the First Minister in her leadership following the Brexit referendum, particularly in challenging the language of xenophobia and racism along with the leadership she has shown in stepping up to great global challenges such as climate change and peace building. At this crucial juncture for our nations, for Europe and indeed the wider world. it is important that Ireland and Scotland support each other’s voices, making not only our concerns but also our ideas heard.

I also commended the First Minister in her leadership following the Brexit referendum, particularly in challenging the language of xenophobia and racism along with the leadership she has shown in stepping up to great global challenges such as climate change and peace building. At this crucial juncture for our nations, for Europe and indeed the wider world. it is important that Ireland and Scotland support each other’s voices, making not only our concerns but also our ideas heard.

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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.