Public Services

Public transport, healthcare, education and secure housing are the building blocks of life. 

The market won’t deliver the public services that sustain communities. In the Seanad, I pushed for publicly built homes, vacant site tax, rental protection and better funding for community development and culture. I championed properly funded inclusive education, from early years to third-level research. I also introduced a Bill to put quality at the heart of the €12 billion spent on public procurement each year. We need to invest wisely in what matters most.

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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.

Civil Engagement Group motion on poverty passes the Seanad

Yesterday in the Seanad, a motion on poverty and social exclusion introduced by my Civil Engagement Group colleague Senator Lynn Ruane passed unanimously. I was delighted to co-sponsor this motion, as it not only highlights the real and unnecessary poverty and exclusion felt by many across society but lays out concrete measures the State could take to begin to address poverty seriously.  

The motion acknowledged that in 2021, 11.6% of the population of Ireland, or 581,334 people, were living in poverty, of which 163,936 were children and also highlighted that the State has failed to achieve its target of reducing consistent poverty to 2% or less by 2020, and that previous targets in this regard have not been met on a consistent basis. It also acknowledges the closing down of the Combat Poverty Agency in 2009 as a regressive step.

In the course of the debate, my colleagues Senator Ruane and Senator Eileen Flynn made powerful speeches informed by lived experience and drove home the fact that to be in poverty is, in and of itself, very costly -- poverty imposes significant psychological, emotional and social costs on individuals, families and communities. 

The motion lays out a number of progressive steps which Government should take to effectively fight the root causes of poverty in our society. These measures include: re-establishing an independent Combat Poverty Agency, or a similar independent statutory body, which is empowered and resourced to develop long-term anti-poverty strategies, carry out important research, and lead the Government’s anti-poverty response; supporting and resourcing ongoing independent research based on the Minimum Essential Standards of Living (MESL) and applying the learnings from this research in an ongoing analysis of policies relating to welfare payments and the development of a living wage; and carrying out research on the potential introduction of a Universal Basic Income for certain groups, in particular care leavers.

If you would like to read the debate, you can view it here: Poverty and Social Exclusion: Motion – Seanad Éireann (26th Seanad) – Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 – Houses of the Oireachtas. Our Group will be following up with the Government on these measures and advocating for their implementation.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins calls for “green networks of cycle and pedestrian lanes and new ambition for rural public transport” at launch of new Committee report on Transport and Climate Action

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action launched its Report on Reducing Emissions in the Transport Sector last Wednesday 3rd June. It is the first in a series of sectoral analyses on how Ireland will meet its target of a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030. 

Ireland has the fourth highest level of transport emissions per capita in Europe and the transport sector is responsible for around 20% of our overall CO₂ emissions, with private cars being the largest contributors to transport emissions.

Senator Higgins welcomes Minister’s change in position on COVID legislation after Senators protest “indefinite extensions” of emergency COVID measures

Following pressure during yesterday’s second stage debate and the tabling of amendments from Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane and Frances Black, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Seanad today that he had “reflected overnight” and accepted the demands for a clear “endpoint” to the emergency legislation.

The Bill as published had allowed for what Senator Higgins described as “indefinite extension of emergency powers by simple resolution with no requirement for legislative scrutiny and no ultimate end date”.

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.”

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins calls on Government to support a TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines at crucial WTO meeting as daily death toll escalates in India and Brazil

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has said “there is an urgent moral responsibility on the Irish Government to support a Trade and Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS) waiver and publicly press the European Commission to vote in favour of that TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on April 30th”.

A TRIPS waiver would allow for the sharing of the intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines. The proposal has been supported by NGOs such as Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontieres.

The 'low-ball' public procurement model is broken and needs reform

Read my op-ed in The Journal here - https://www.thejournal.ie/read...

IN 2019, IRELAND spent €12 billion on contracts for goods, services and construction. This figure is set to rise considerably in the coming years as €116 billion in major capital works projects are rolled out under the National Development Plan.

The public has a right to expect that when money is spent on their behalf, it is spent in a way that delivers the best results. That requires a carefully thought-through approach to the quality of standards and performance in areas like sustainability, social impact, decent employment and design.