Seanad passes Senator Higgins’ motion calling for a TRIPS waiver

Alice Mary Higgins Trips Waiver Motion Launch Leinster House
Alice Mary Higgins Trips Waiver Motion Launch Leinster House

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins today introduced a motion in the Seanad calling on the Government to support a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-19 vaccine technology and on the Government to publicly call on the European Commission to do the same.

The motion was seconded by Senator Lynn Ruane and co-sponsored by Senators Frances Black, Paul Gavan, Lynn Boylan, Fintan Warfield, Niall O’Donnghaile, Rebecca Moynihan, Marie Sherlock, Annie Hoey, Mark Wall and Victor Boyhan

 Speaking after the Seanad debate, Senator Higgins said “In a pandemic we need to prioritise public health over profit. The World Health Organisation, the United Nations, doctors, nurses, academics and civil society across the world have all made it crystal clear that we need a TRIPS waiver as a first step in the scaling up of global manufacturing and access to vaccines. Over 100 countries are supporting such a waiver in World Trade Organisation negotiations and just a handful of countries including those represented by the European Commission have consistently blocked the waiver.”

 “The motion from the Seanad tonight sends a clear message that we want the Irish Government to join other governments like Italy and Portugal in taking a stand in support of a TRIPS waiver and publicly calling on the European Commission to change position and allow for earlier and urgent scaling up of global supply of life saving vaccines.”

 “I want to thank the co-sponsors of this motion and I also want to thank Government Senators who spoke passionately and powerfully about their own support for a TRIPS waiver. I am glad that the Minister listened to the House and agreed to the withdrawal of a regressive Government counter-motion.”

 The Seanad tonight sent a powerful message. I now strongly urge the Irish Government to listen to that message and to publicly press the European Commission to support a TRIPS waiver in advance of the next WTO meeting in February 2022.”, Senator Higgins concluded. 

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Senator Higgins calls on Irish Government to step up on climate justice ahead of COP27

At the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action this week, ahead of COP27, the Committee heard powerful testimony from NGO's and activists working for climate justice ahead. The Committee were reminded of the stark reality by activist Elizabeth Wathuti who told us that "We are witnessing devastating Loss & Damage right now. From the devastating flooding across West and Central Africa; to the prolonged drought across the horn of Africa that has seen five consecutive rainy seasons fail."

NGOs highlighted the need for a number of policy measures to ensure that principles of climate justice are reflected in our global effort. A proper loss and damage facility, Ireland following Denmark's lead and beginning to make loss and damage payments as an individual country, proper climate finance and a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty are some of the key policy measures we were told are fundamental to climate justice.

When officials from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications came in, I specifically, asked them to ensure Ireland's support for a loss and damage facility for Global South countries and begin making payments as an individual country, I sought clarification that both loss and damage and climate finance measures would be additional to existing aid commitments and pushed for information on how Ireland intends to meet the 30% by 2030 methane pledge made at COP26.

I also sought a commitment that Ireland would support the inclusion of human rights in negotiated texts and a commitment that Ireland would sign the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.

Those who are already suffering the worst effects of the climate crisis and who have done the least to cause it, have been consistently let down by wealthy countries. Ireland must fight for climate justice at COP27.