Joe Higgins

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Joe Higgins
Joe Higgins TD, 2014.jpg
Higgins in 2014
Teachta Dála
In office
February 2011 – February 2016
In office
June 1997 – May 2007
ConstituencyDublin West
Member of the European Parliament
In office
7 June 2009 – 9 March 2011
Personal details
Born (1949-05-20) 20 May 1949 (age 71)
Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland
Political partySocialist Party (since 1998)
Other political
Labour Party (until 1989)
United Left Alliance (2010–13)
RelationsLiam Higgins (Brother)
Alma materUniversity College Dublin

Joe Higgins (born 20 May 1949) is an Irish former Socialist Party politician who served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency from 1997 to 2007 and from 2011 to 2016. He served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency from 2009 to 2011.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

One of nine children of a small farming family, Higgins was born in 1949 in Lispole, part of the Dingle Gaeltacht in County Kerry. He went to school in the Dingle Christian Brothers School, and after finishing he enrolled in the priesthood. As part of his training he was sent to a Catholic seminary school in Minnesota, United States in the 1960s.[citation needed]

Higgins became politicised at the time of anti-Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement.[4] He is a brother of Liam Higgins, who played football with the Kerry GAA senior team in the 1960s and 1970s.[citation needed]

Higgins is bilingual in English and Irish.[5]

Political career[edit]

Early activism[edit]

Higgins returned to Ireland and attended University College Dublin, studying English and French. For several years he was a teacher in several Dublin inner city schools. While at university he joined the Labour Party and became active in the Militant Tendency, an entryist Trotskyist group that operated within the Labour Party. Throughout his time in the Labour Party he was a strong opponent of coalition politics, along with TDs Emmet Stagg and Michael D. Higgins. He was elected to the Administrative Council of the Labour Party by the membership in the 1980s. In 1989, Higgins was expelled alongside 13 other members of Militant Tendency by party leader Dick Spring.[6] The group eventually left the party and formed Militant Labour, which became the Socialist Party in 1996.

Higgins spent over half his salary on the Socialist Party and causes he supported.[7][8] He was elected to Dublin County Council in 1991 for the Mulhuddart electoral area, and was until 2003 a member of Fingal County Council. In 1996, he campaigned against local authority water and refuse charges and contested the Dublin West by-election, losing narrowly to Brian Lenihan Jnr.

Dáil Éireann: 1997–2007[edit]

Joe Higgins speaking in Dublin 25 June 2004

Higgins was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1997 general election, and re-elected at the 2002 general election.[9] He lost his seat at the 2007 general election, but regained it at the 2011 general election. From 2002 to 2007, he was a member of the Technical Group in the Dáil which consisted of various Independent TDs, Sinn Féin and the Green Party grouped together for better speaking time.

In 2003, Higgins accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of having "blood on his hands" in relation to the use of Shannon Airport by American troops.[10] He spoke out against the Iraq War while a TD, and addressed the Dublin leg of the 20 March 2003 International Day of Action.[11]

In April 2003, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell addressed Higgins during a Dáil debate, saying "I do not take lectures on democracy from a Trotskyite communist like Deputy Joe Higgins."[12][13][14]

On 19 September 2003, Higgins was sentenced to one month in Mountjoy Prison as a result of his protest against the non-collection of refuse in his constituency during the Anti-Bin Tax Campaign.[15][16][17] He was also prominent in the successful 2005 campaign to bring Nigerian school student Olukunle Eluhanla back to Ireland after he had been deported.[18] Higgins remains an opponent of the deportation policy.[19]

When President Mary McAleese telephoned Higgins in 2004 to inform him of her decision to seek re-election, he told her that her office was "superfluous and should be abolished". McAleese was reported to have been left speechless.[20]

At the 2004 European Parliament election, Higgins received 23,200 (5.5%) votes in the Dublin constituency, double his 1999 result, but did not win a seat.

Higgins used his platform in the Dáil to raise the issue of exploitation of migrant and guest workers in Ireland. He and others claimed that many companies were paying migrants below the minimum wage and, in some cases, not paying overtime rates. In March 2005, Higgins and a delegation of Turkish ex-employees of GAMA Endustri, a Turkish construction firm working in Ireland, travelled to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where they discovered that GAMA had been secreting up to 30 million in workers' wages without their knowledge.[21][22] He expressed opposition in the Dáil to the jailing of the Rossport Five in July 2005.[23] He raised the outsourcing of jobs by Irish Ferries in the Dáil in November 2005, requesting new legislation to regulate what he described as "these modern slavers".[24][25]

In May 2006, Higgins boycotted an address to the Dáil by Australian Prime Minister John Howard owing to Australia's role in the Iraq War, the country's "criminal" legislation on worker's rights, and its theft of oil and gas from the poor people of East Timor, describing it as "reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher".[26][27][28]

In October 2006, Higgins requested the suspension of normal business in the Dáil after it emerged that Ryanair had upped its share in Aer Lingus overnight, amid concerns for workers' rights and passenger welfare.[29]

In 2008, Higgins was a political opponent of the Irish government's first Treaty of Lisbon referendum. He described the success of the "No" campaign as "a huge rebuff to the Irish political establishment".[30]

European Parliament: 2009–2011[edit]

Higgins at the European Parliament, Brussels in 2009

Higgins successfully contested the 2009 European Parliament election for the Dublin constituency, beating two incumbents, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin and Eoin Ryan of Fianna Fáil, for the third and final seat.[31][32][33] He was elected on the same day to Fingal County Council for the Castleknock electoral area, topping the poll. As Irish law prohibits politicians having a dual mandate, Higgins vacated this council seat in July 2009 and was replaced by Matt Waine. He was a member of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (EUL–NGL) group in the European Parliament,[34] the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade, and the delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia. He was also a substitute member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Petitions and the delegation for relations with the Mercosur countries.

In 2009, Higgins was a political opponent of the Irish government's re-run of the Treaty of Lisbon referendum.[35] He said the guarantees did not change the Treaty.[36][37][38] Higgins said, "The overall agenda here is quite simply the ruling classes, or the classes of Europe intend to stride on to the world stage as a powerful economic entity. And they want to be as powerful as the US, meaning they want a stronger foreign policy and a military wing to back them up."[39] He also spoke out against Ireland's Catholic bishops, who claimed neither a "Yes" nor a "No" vote would threaten the unborn, saying that EU spending on arms ought to be enough for the bishops to join the "No" campaign.[40]

On 23 November 2010, Higgins walked out of a meeting of Irish MEPs with EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, after two minutes in Strasbourg, prompting criticism from Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell.[41][42] Higgins said he walked out as information Rehn was giving was to be confidential and that he felt it would have been a betrayal to stay, calling it "unacceptable".[42]

During a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Higgins described the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) as "nothing more than another tool to cushion major European banks from the consequences of their reckless speculation on the financial markets". He claimed the EFSF was a "mechanism to make working class people throughout Europe pay for the crisis of a broken financial system and a crisis-ridden European capitalism". He accused President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy of effectively transferring tens of billions of euros of private bad debts "on to the shoulders of the Irish people". Barroso rejected the claims, instead blaming Irish banks and lax regulation for Ireland's problems, saying: "To the distinguished member of this Parliament who comes from Ireland, who asked a question suggesting that the problems of Ireland were created by Europe, let me tell you: the problems of Ireland were created by the irresponsible financial behaviour of some Irish institutions, and by the lack of supervision in the Irish market".[43][44]

Paul Murphy replaced Higgins as an MEP when Higgins was re-elected to the Dáil.[45]

Dáil Éireann: 2011–2016[edit]

Higgins was elected again as TD for Dublin West at the 2011 general election. He won the third seat (of four) with 8,084 first preference votes.[46] In his first speech in the 31st Dáil, he opposed the nomination of Fine Gael's Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.[47] Higgins announced that he would "put up a principled opposition to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition which is most likely", since they are "going to carry on with the same policies as Fianna Fáil, making working-class people pay for the bankers' bad gambling debts".[48] He promised to work with the other United Left Alliance TDs "as a coherent, principled opposition".[49] He suggested the creation of a national exploration company which would allow the state to retain any profits obtained from natural resources.[50][51][52]

Ahead of the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Republic of Ireland in May 2011, Higgins asked Enda Kenny in the Dáil if "the Queen of England [sic] might be politely asked to contribute to the cost of her bed & breakfast during her visit to Ireland", observing that "the Irish people needed the financial help since they could soon be sleeping rough, as the country faced bankruptcy to pay off the debts of German and French banks, which had recklessly gambled and lost in the Irish property bubble".[53] On 4 May 2011, Enda Kenny was forced to apologise to Higgins in the Dáil after falsely accusing him of being a supporter of Osama bin Laden after Higgins offered criticism of his assassination by the CIA. Higgins had asked the Taoiseach: "Is assassination only justified if the target is a reactionary, anti-democratic, anti-human rights obscurantist like bin Laden?".[54]

He vowed there would be a nationwide campaign of "people power" against any household and water charges.[55] In September 2011, Higgins committed to facilitating the nomination of Senator David Norris for a place on the ballot paper ahead of the 2011 Irish presidential election, despite multiple controversies enveloping the candidate.[56] On the occasion of the publication of the Keane report on mortgage arrears in October 2011, Higgins criticised Enda Kenny's government and said the report was "a banker's charter written by bankers".[57] His description of allowing the banks to solve their own problems as being "like sending a bunch of marauding foxes that had raided a henhouse back to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to their victims" was quoted several times by other commentators in the media.[58][59][60] Higgins addressed "The EU in Crisis" public debate, held at the Ireland Institute in Dublin in October 2011.[61] He served as Ruth Coppinger's election agent in the 2011 Dublin West by-election, held alongside the presidential election.[62] At her campaign launch Higgins said Taoiseach Enda Kenny was engaging in a "cynical manipulation of the political agenda" by delaying the publication of his government's comprehensive spending review until after the elections.[63]

In the Dáil, Higgins accused Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore of doing nothing for the 14 Irish citizens being held "incommunicado" by Israel in November 2011.[64] In December 2011, Higgins described as a disgraceful campaign of intimidation the fines imposed by the government on people who were unable to pay a new household charge brought in as part of the latest austerity budget and said to Enda Kenny that he would be "the new Captain Boycott of austerity in this country".[65][66][67] He asked that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan provide EBS staff with the 13th month end-of-year payment they were being denied.[68]

In September 2012, he publicly disagreed with former Socialist Party colleague Clare Daly, saying it was "unfortunate" that she had resigned from the party, but that it was impossible for Daly under the banner of the Socialist Party to continue to offer political support to Mick Wallace, who was at that time embroiled in scandal.[69]

He announced in April 2014 that he would not contest the next Dáil election. At the time he stated his belief that the "baton of elected representation" should be carried by another generation of Socialist Party politicians — like Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy.[70]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joe Higgins". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Ryan loses out to Higgins in Dublin". RTÉ News. 8 June 2009. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  3. ^ "The first Socialist Party MEP". 8 June 2009. Archived from the original on 1 May 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  4. ^ "Last Man Standing". The Village. Archived from the original on 26 September 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2005.
  5. ^ "Seosamh Ó hUiginn FPE / Joe Higgins MPE, Sóisialach, Feisire Eorpach". Beo, uimhir 117, Eanáir 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Socialist Party candidate raises red flag in the heart of Cork's north side". The Irish Times. 19 February 2011.
  7. ^ Smyth, Sam (9 March 2010). "Greens' top brass give up €46,000 of salary to party funds". Irish Independent.
  8. ^ "Our mean-spirited braying about Pat Kenny's salary is totally wrong". Irish Independent. 13 November 2009.
  9. ^ "Joe Higgins". Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  10. ^ Cowan, Rosie (4 February 2003). "Passion for neutrality fires anti-war campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2003.
  11. ^ Bruce, Helen (20 March 2003). "Thousands prepare to march against Irish role in Iraq war". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 March 2003.
  12. ^ "Parliamentary Debates – Dáil Éireann – Volume 564". Houses of the Oireachtas. 3 April 2003. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Gardaí over-reacted at protest: Higgins". 4 April 2003.
  14. ^ "Taoiseach defends demo policing". RTÉ News. 3 April 2003.
  15. ^ "Jailed politicians 'grandstanding', says Cullen". RTÉ News. 19 September 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  16. ^ "Outrage over jailed TD's 'grandstand' bin protest". Irish Independent. 20 September 2003.
  17. ^ "Jail sentences for Joe Higgins and Clare Daly". 19 September 2003.
  18. ^ "All that's left?". The Sunday Business Post. 17 April 2005. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  19. ^ "O'Rourke calls over Nigerian children". RTÉ News. 16 April 2005.
  20. ^ Drennan, John (19 September 2004). "Joe has earned his place in the big house". Irish Independent.
  21. ^ "Higgins deems GAMA accounts 'sensational'". RTÉ News. 31 March 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  22. ^ "Gama to provide bank account details". RTÉ News. 8 April 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  23. ^ Laffey, James (6 July 2005). "Dempsey under pressure as Dáil condemns Mayo jailings". Western People. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012.
  24. ^ "Dispute onboard two Irish Ferries vessels". RTÉ News. 24 November 2005.
  25. ^ Molony, Senan (25 November 2005). "Troubled waters for Taoiseach as wave of job cuts begins". Irish Independent.
  26. ^ "Higgins to boycott Australian PM's Dáil address". 22 May 2006.
  27. ^ McKenna, Gene (23 May 2006). "Anti-war TDs vow to boycott Howard's appearance in the Dáil". Irish Independent.
  28. ^ Coorey, Phillip (24 May 2006). "Ireland digs in its heels against PM's free-trade crusade". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  29. ^ Molony, Senan; Collins, Geraldine (6 October 2006). "TDs delay Dáil to debate buyout proposal". Irish Independent.
  30. ^ Hoskins, Paul (13 June 2008). "Irish "no" vote shows alienation of working class". Reuters.
  31. ^ "Higgins beats Ryan to third European seat in Dublin". The Irish Times. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  32. ^ Guider, Ian (8 June 2009). "Ireland's Cowen Faces No-Confidence Vote After Poll". Bloomberg.
  33. ^ "Fianna Fáil humiliated in Dublin". 8 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015.
  34. ^ "Your MEPs: Joe Higgins". European Parliament. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  35. ^ "Higgins launches anti-Lisbon campaign". RTÉ News. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  36. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (20 June 2009). "October date is set for re-run of referendum". Irish Independent.
  37. ^ "Lisbon guarantees elicit mixed response". Irish Examiner. 19 June 2009.
  38. ^ "Left-wing opponents dismiss Lisbon guarantees". Belfast Telegraph. 19 June 2009.
  39. ^ "Government faces tough fight, say anti-Lisbon campaigners". 19 June 2009.
  40. ^ "Higgins attacks Church stance on Lisbon Treaty". Irish Examiner. 22 September 2009.
  41. ^ "Higgins criticised for EU meeting walkout". Irish Examiner. 23 November 2010.
  42. ^ a b "Cowen rejects earlier Budget call". RTÉ News. 23 November 2010. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010.
  43. ^ "Barroso rounds on Higgins". The Irish Times. 19 January 2011.
  44. ^ "Furious Barroso rounds on MEP Joe Higgins". 19 January 2011.
  45. ^ "Murphy to replace Higgins as MEP". The Irish Times. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  46. ^ Slattery, Laura (26 February 2011). "Burton elected on first count". The Irish Times.
  47. ^ "First speech in the new Dil (sic)". 10 March 2011. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.
  48. ^ "Higgins: FG-Labour will continue FF policies". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  49. ^ Minihan, Mary (28 February 2011). "Higgins pledges to build new party of left as five elected under ULA banner". The Irish Times.
  50. ^ Flanagan, Peter; O'Donovan, Donal (20 October 2011). "Looking to strike it rich for oil in offshore Ireland". Irish Independent. There have been calls from Socialist TD Joe Higgins and others for the Government to create a national exploration company so we can keep the profits from natural resources ourselves
  51. ^ "13 licences granted for fuel exploration off Irish coast". The Journal. 17 October 2011. However, Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has condemned the decision, saying that a publicly-owned exploration company should be established, RTÉ reports
  52. ^ "Approach to exploration utterly wrong: Joe Higgins Socialist Party TD". Morning Ireland. 17 October 2011. Archived from the original on 19 October 2011.
  53. ^ "Lawmaker: Irish should not roll out 'green carpet' for Queen Elizabeth". CNN. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  54. ^ "Ok you are not a bin Laden fan Taoiseach tells Joe Higgins". Irish Independent. 4 May 2011.
  55. ^ "Joe Higgins promises boycott against charges". RTÉ News. 7 September 2011.
  56. ^ Nihill, Cían (19 September 2011). "Boost for Norris as left-wing TDs to support nomination". The Irish Times.
  57. ^ O'Halloran, Marie (20 October 2011). "Kenny and Higgins clash on mortgages". The Irish Times.
  58. ^ Ross, Shane (16 October 2011). "Paddy confronts banker cabal". Sunday Independent.
  59. ^ O'Regan, Michael (12 October 2011). "Yes Minister, it's a tough job but someone's got to do it". The Irish Times.
  60. ^ Drennan, John (16 October 2011). "Unrealistic promises but minimal change". Sunday Independent.
  61. ^ "Dublin to hold 'EU in crisis' debate". Irish Examiner. 7 October 2011.
  62. ^ Black, Fergus (29 October 2011). "Labour on course for victory despite recount bid". Irish Independent. In stepped her election agent Joe Higgins after returning officer John Fitzpatrick announced that Ms Coppinger was being eliminated and her votes were to be distributed among the remaining two candidates – Mr Nulty and Mr McGuinness.
  63. ^ Cullen, Paul (6 October 2011). "Socialists target Government's political agenda". The Irish Times.
  64. ^ "Detained Irish activists due to depart Israel". RTÉ News. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  65. ^ "Higgins says household fine plan 'disgraceful'". RTÉ News. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  66. ^ "Higgins urges public to boycott 'unjust' €100 Household Charge". The Journal. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  67. ^ O'Halloran, Marie; O'Regan, Michael (14 December 2011). "Kenny defends household charge". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  68. ^ "Joe Higgins makes case for EBS bonuses". RTÉ News. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  69. ^ "Joe Higgins comments on Clare Daly's ULA hopes". RTÉ News. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  70. ^ "Joe Higgins to quit Dáil at end of this term to clear way for Coppinger". 28 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Joan Burton
(Labour Party)
Socialist Party Teachta Dála for Dublin West
Succeeded by
Leo Varadkar
(Fine Gael)
Preceded by
Seat added to constituency
Socialist Party Teachta Dála for Dublin West
Succeeded by
Ruth Coppinger
European Parliament
Preceded by
Eoin Ryan
(Fianna Fáil)
Member of the European Parliament for Dublin
Succeeded by
Paul Murphy