Bill from Senator Alice-Mary Higgins would give Coillte and Bord na Móna a “Mandate for Nature”

The Bill from Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and her colleagues in the Seanad Civil Engagement Group would amend the Turf Development Act 1946 and the Forestry Act 1988 to change the outdated mandates of Bord na Móna and Coillte and insert new language on climate action and biodiversity.

In the case of Bord na Móna, this would strengthen the protection and restoration of bogs and in the case of Coillte the development and protection of native woodlands.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Senator Higgins said: “My Bill seeks to amend the outdated mandates of Coillte and Bord na Móna, which are currently framed in narrow commercial terms, when we know they can, and should, also be playing a powerful transformative role in the achievement of our national biodiversity and climate action goals.”

“Both organisations are responsible for a huge amount of the lands, bogs, waters and soils of our country, with Coillte alone controlling 7% of land in the Irish state. Managing that land in a way that genuinely prioritises and delivers for biodiversity and climate action would be a major step forward. It would also reflect recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity and specific commitments in the Programme for Government to update the remit and objectives of Coillte and Bord na Móna”.

While public sector bodies are subject to the Public Sector Climate Action Mandate, which requires a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 under Irish law, semi-state companies are currently not. That is why getting the legal mandates right is so important

Senator Higgins concluded.: “By going to the heart of the legal mandates underpinning Coillte and Bord na Móna, this Bill empowers and requires those bodies to act in the best public interest, the best interests of our environment and the best interests of our collective future. Our Bill also ensures just transition for workers and communities is properly reflected within Bord na Móna’s objectives.”

The Bill, which is being supported by a wide range of NGOs including the Irish Environmental Network, will be debated at second stage in the Seanad at 6:30 PM on Tuesday 16th May.

Senator Higgins welcomes Supreme Court ruling on seventh amendment and urges Government to enact Seanad Bill 2020

NUI Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has today welcomed the Supreme Court ruling on the need to legislate for the seventh amendment to the Constitution and is urging the Government to enact the Seanad Bill 2020 introduced by Senator Higgins and Senator Michael McDowell.

Speaking after today’s ruling, Senator Higgins commended Tomas Heneghan for taking the case and said: “Today’s ruling underscores the urgent need for Seanad reform. That reform must be ambitious and comprehensive. The failure to legislate for the 1979 referendum reflects a wider history of evasion and delays around meaningful Seanad reform by successive governments over many decades.

“This ruling confirms that action must be taken. However, a minimalist approach to legislating on this issue would not be true to the spirit of either the 1979 referendum or 2013 referendum – in which the public clearly called for reform.”

“The Seanad Bill 2020 represents a practical legislative blueprint which would ensure that every citizen has the right to vote in Seanad elections – while also legislating for the 1979 referendum. For too long, the majority of the public have had no say in electing the Seanad and this urgently needs to change.”

“The Seanad Bill 2020 was collectively drafted by the cross-party Seanad Reform Implementation Group which was established in May 2018 and published its report in December 2018. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to deliver on the recommendations of this report and also failed to deliver on promises to address this issue as part of the recent legislation establishing a new Electoral Commission.”

Senator Higgins highlighted at the time that “the absence of any reference to Seanad reform or the Seanad franchise is a glaring omission from the mandate of the Electoral Commission.”

For that reason, earlier this week, Senator Higgins and her colleagues in the Civil Engagement Group, introduced the Electoral Reform (Amendment) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2023 which would require the Electoral Commission to review the franchise and electoral system for the Seanad.

“When the 2013 referendum campaign was underway, those of us in favour of retaining the Seanad urged that we should open it, not close it and the way to do that was through broadening the franchise to every citizen.”

“When I spoke at the commemorative sitting for Seanad 100, I highlighted that too many people do not even have the opportunity to cast a vote in the election of this House, despite referendums where the citizens of Ireland made it clear they value the Seanad, and they want a say in it. Opening the franchise to all and passing the Seanad Bill 2020 is the essential test as we turn from the past towards the future of the Seanad.”

‘Quality in Public Procurement' Bill passes final stage in the Seanad

Bill aims to deliver better results from the almost €20 billion Ireland spends each year on public procurement by placing quality at the heart of the process.

 Speaking after last night's Seanad debate Senator Higgins said:

 “In 2021 the Irish State spent almost €20 billion on public procurement. This Bill is about spending better. We need to know that the public money we are spending is giving us the best possible results in terms of sustainability, the environment, employment, social impact, quality and delivery. My Bill would require public bodies to consider both quality and price when spending public money or to provide an explanation as to why not. In other words, think about quality or explain why you’re not thinking about quality.”

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins joins launch of Irish Neutrality League on World Day of Peace

“Our voice for peace is precious, it’s something the public values, it’s something that makes a difference in the world.” 

Today, on World Day of Peace, I was glad to join with others from across the Oireachtas to formally launch the Irish Neutrality League (INL), a campaign which calls on the Irish Government to assert Ireland’s neutrality positively on the world stage, to be a voice for peace, promote human rights, to promote international law and oppose war and militarisation.  

Ireland has been and can be a really strong voice on international law, including where there are terrible breaches of international law as we’ve seen with Russian’s illegal invasion and occupation of Ukraine or indeed breaches of international law that may have to be tried in the future as war crimes. 

Our credibility as champions of international law is greatly strengthened by our status as a neutral nation, and willingness to promote these same principles everywhere in the world wherever those laws are being breached without fear or favour.

‘Quality in Public Procurement’ Bill passes Committee Stage in the Seanad

Yesterday, Senator Higgins’ ‘Quality in Public Procurement’ Bill passed Committee Stage in the Seanad. The Bill places quality at the heart of the public procurement process and moves public procurement on from the current approach of automatically awarding contracts on the basis of lowest price. The Bill will make price-quality ratio the default approach for awarding public contracts, either on its own or combined with life-cycle costing.