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The references to sustainability & environment in the Bill are woefully outdated & inadequate, coming from a 1987 pre-Rio definition of “environmental development”.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!


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Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Frances Black co-sign letter from 1,000 parliamentarians calling on European leaders to take a stand against annexation and protect the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Senator Frances Black, Senator Lynn Ruane and Senator David Norris and more than 100 other Irish Oireachtas members have joined over 1,000 other parliamentarians from across Europe, in co-signing a letter calling on European leaders to act decisively against plans for illegal annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel which have the potential to undermine peace negotiations and further destabilize the region.



The joint letter, initiated by Avraham Burg a former speaker of Israel's parliamentary assembly, the Knesset, underlines the importance of a "rules based global order" and calls for a lasting solution to the conflict that meets “legitimate aspirations and security needs and guarantees equal rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.” It emphasizes that “Europe has the diplomatic tools to promote this just goal, and we stand ready to support such efforts.”



Senator Higgins said: “Europe has a responsibility to follow through on its long-stated commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to take a firm stand against attempts to undermine core principles of justice, human rights and peace. Europe must make strong use of its diplomacy to oppose any proposed new settlement or annexation and Ireland, in particular, needs to show leadership”



Senator Black said: “With the threat of annexation, the international community must recognise one thing above all else: Condemnation is not enough! It has not stopped decades of settlement expansion. We need real accountability and action before it’s too late. “



“I introduced The Occupied Territories Bill into Seanad Éireann in 2018, it prohibits the importation of goods from illegally occupied lands, including the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The international community has an obligation to oppose annexation & the expansion of illegal settlements: we can start by refusing to support them economically.”



The letter, signed by 1080 parliamentarians, is addressed to EU Foreign Ministers and EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell. It calls on Europe to “take the lead in bringing international actors together to prevent annexation and to safeguard the prospects of the two-state solution and a just resolution to the conflict.”