Legislation

Since being elected to the Seanad in 2016, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has sponsored 10 separate bills, and won over 50 amendments, making real change in policy and law.

These amendments were won by vote, by agreement of the Seanad or by persuading the Minister to accept the policy point of the amendment and bring it into law with their own wording. 

She has also proposed and won cross-party support for a number of motions.

Alice-Mary has sponsored and co-sponsored the following bills:

Community Participation (Disability) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019

Electoral (Civil Society Freedom) (Amendment) Bill 2019

Public Authorities and Utility Undertakings (Contract Preparation and Award Criteria) Bill 2019

Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018

Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018

International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017

Controlled Drugs and Harm Reduction Bill 2017

Adult Safeguarding Bill 2017

Derelict and Vacant Sites Bill 2017

Seanad Bill 2016

 

Amendments

Planning and Development (Housing) andResidential Tenancies Act 2016: 4 amendments including an amendment to strengthen rental protection and another to prevent fast-track planning permissions from being held in reserve for extended periods of time.

 

Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 1 amendment to ensure that a review into open or semi-open adoption would take place within 10 months of the Act passing into law. Following that review, the Department have changed policy and introduced, post adoption contact plans and counselling supports for the first time in Ireland.

 

Data Protection Act 2018 4 amendments and a shift in policy to ensure that public bodies would not be exempted from fines for misuse of personal data but would instead face fines of up to one million.

 

Heritage Act 2018 1 amendment won and a number of other compromise amendments achieved. Through working with other parties across the Seanad, progress was made in the course of the debate to limit out of season hedge-cutting to only roadside hedges and to extend the opportunities for local authorities and members of the public to raise objections under the canals part of the legislation. Lengthy Seanad debates helped build public and political pressure and in summer 2019, the Minister announced that hedge-cutting would not be allowed in August for that year.

 

Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 1 amendment won with a specific focus on limiting advertising and sponsorship by alcohol products where it may affect children.

 

Mediation Act 2017 1 amendment was won to ensure that in any situation where mediation is being recommended, each person is made aware that mediation is a voluntary process which may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly where they have experienced domestic violence or coercive control or feel there is a risk to safety, and no one should feel pressured to agree to it.


DomesticViolence Act 2018 Senator Higgins, along with a number of other Senators, proposed amendments to legislate for controlling and coercive behaviour as a criminal offence. After significant discussion and further stakeholder engagement a version of this amendment was introduced into the bill by the Minister. 

Social Welfare Act 2019 1 amendment was won to provide for a report and recommendations to be made by the Minister and the department regarding one parent families. The report will particularly examine the issue of income disregard for parents of children between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.


Greyhound Racing Act 2019 3 amendments were won to improve the protections given to the welfare of greyhounds by ensuring that there is at least one vet on the board of the relevant association and that retirement and rehoming  plans are put in place for greyhounds.

 

Data-Sharing andGovernance Act 2018 Approximately 24 amendments were accepted to bring the Bill in line with the Data Protection Act and GDPR - excluding special categories of personal data from the scope of the act except in very explicit circumstances, strengthening the security of data-sharing between public bodies, and strengthening the capacity of individuals and citizens to exercise their data protection rights.

 

Wildlife Bill 2016 9 amendments were won to maintain protections to peatlands as part of Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage, biodiversity and carbon sequestration sources. The amendments include a requirement that the Minister and department must complete an audit on the condition, restoration potential and re-wetting potential of any blanket bog before an order can be made for de-designation as a natural heritage area.


Motions

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement: Motion

Marine Protection: Motion

Housing for People with Disabilities

Conflict in Yemen

Related 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!


‘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.

Newsletter January 2022

Dear Friends,

The last eighteen months have been very difficult for many. Yet even as we continue to navigate the daily challenges presented by Covid 19, another important conversation is also happening. A conversation about what kind of future we want to build together in our communities and on our planet. 

It is important that we learn from recent experience and do not slide back to an unsustainable and unequal business as usual. This is a chance to do things differently and better. 
Read more...

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins speaking at the conclusion of the Climate Bill Debate

As the stark facts of the IPCC report are underscored by fires and floods across the world. I’m sharing my thoughts on the Climate Bill and how Ireland must and can do better on Climate Action. Immediate actions should include a moratorium on data centres, exit from Energy Charter Treaty, a ban on LNG terminals and leadership re global ban on fracking and #2050istoolate.

Ireland is starting late on climate action and it should be starting stronger. Here are some important challenges, gaps and concerns which will need further attention and action in the months ahead.

Limitation of liability: This problematic clause limits compensation for citizens hurt by climate inaction at the same time as the Government want to introduce new liabilities/compensation for corporations under the Investor Court System/CETA with chill effect. It's more important than ever to stop the ratification of CETA.

Climate Justice: I am glad that the Government removed a weak and damaging definition of climate justice but am disappointed they did not replace it with the strong one as proposed by NGOs and Senators. Government must now prove sincerity on this through concrete global solidarity action for example at COP26 and through funding.

Just Transition: "There are also people involved in just transition who have been ahead of us." A strong Just Transition definition is not included in the legislation. The Government will need to place communities, trade unions and others at centre of Just Transition for a ground up approach to climate action.

SDGs: Ireland played key role in negotiating the UN Sustainable Development Goals yet the Government rejected any amendments to include them in Climate Bill. The SDGs are not aspirational or optional they must be recognised as crucial blueprint for how we survive together on this fragile planet. 

Market forces: "If we try to fit climate action into stock market model, we will fail and the world will burn". The Minister's economic framing doesn’t recognise that, as with housing, speculation is a problem not a solution and we can’t afford that. 

2030 Target:”51% should be the floor not the ceiling”. Unfortunately the Government rejected my amendment to insert ‘at least’ before ‘51%’ which would have given the Climate Change Advisory Council flexibility to propose more ambitious budgets. Many scientists also have concerns regarding how the 51% target may be calculated.

Oil and Gas: The Climate Bill still allows the Minister to grant NEW licenses and leases for fossil fuel extraction, for example where there has been previous exploration licence. This actively undermines the aim of Bill and may be motivated by fear of litigation through the Energy Charter Treaty. Ireland needs to stop digging!

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins welcomes “important shift in policy and approach” as Minister O’Gorman publishes legislation to give adopted people access to birth certs and early life information

Senator Higgins has welcomed new draft legislation published by Minister O’Gorman yesterday “as an important shift in policy and approach which could finally give adopted people proper access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”

Speaking today Senator Higgins said “This proposed legislation seems to offer long-overdue recognition and support for the rights of adopted people to access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.”