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

Public Consultation on the General Scheme for the Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill 2024

We welcome the opportunity to engage in this consultation and urge that the Department would provide further opportunities for engagement at later stages. At the outset we must signify our total opposition to this draft Bill as it falls far short of the blueprint for real Seanad reform that has been agreed on a cross-party agreement.

The first portion of our submission deals with the broader questions and the second part deals with the very significant problems with the Bill as drafted.

We are of the view that:

  • The Government’s Bill should be discarded in favour of the Seanad Bill 2020; and
  • The Government’s Bill contains numerous problematic provisions which will limit democratic participation in Seanad elections.

The Seanad Franchise:

The question of the implementation of the seventh amendment of the Constitution cannot sit in isolation from the wider question of Seanad reform. The Supreme Court 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 or 2013 referenda – in which the public clearly called for reform.

The public voted in the 2013 referendum for a reformed Seanad and the 2015 Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform (the Manning Report) clearly recommended that “a majority of the Panel seats be elected by popular vote on the principle of one person one vote.”

Arms Embargo Bill to restrict transfer of munitions of war, weapons and dangerous dual-use goods to Israel

In light of Ireland’s recent recognition of the State of Palestine, the Seanad Civil Engagement group is calling for tangible actions to curb the flow of arms being used in the relentless assault against the people of Gaza. On Wednesday 29 May, Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Frances Black and Eileen Flynn will be bringing a Bill to the Seanad that seeks to ensure that munitions of war, weapons and dangerous goods are not being transferred to Israel through Ireland, either directly or indirectly.

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.

‘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.”

Winter Newsletter December 2022

Dear Friends,

This newsletter comes at a time when people in Ireland and across the world are navigating many interconnected challenges.In Ireland, the increases in cost of living have deepened existing inequalities in our society and highlighted underinvestment in public housing and public services.

Globally, conflict has layered further difficulties on top of an accelerating climate crisis. Following four years of drought, the Horn of Africa is facing a devastating famine. This is not just a tragedy, it is an injustice. Africa as a continent produces less than 4% of global carbon emissions, yet billions there are now at risk from the rise in global temperatures.

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!