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Joe Higgins (born 1 May 1949) is an Irishmarker Socialist Party politician. He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency at the 2009 European Parliament election. He was the sole Socialist Party Teachta Dála (TD) from 1997–2007, representing the Dublin West constituency.

Early life

One of nine children of a small farming family, he was born in 1949 in Lispolemarker, part of the Corca Dhuibhne gaeltacht in County Kerrymarker. He went to school in the Dinglemarker 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 Minnesotamarker, U.S.marker in the 1960s.

It was against the backdrop of anti-Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement that Higgins was politicised. He is now an atheist.

Political life

Early activism

He returned to Irelandmarker and attended University College Dublinmarker studying English and French. For several years he was a teacher in some of Dublin'smarker 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 Labour. Throughout his time in the Labour Party he was a strong opponent of coalition politics. He was elected to the Administrative Council of the Labour Party by the membership in the 1980s. In 1989 Higgins was expelled alongside other members of Militant. The group eventually left the party and formed Militant Labour which became the Socialist Party in 1996.

Higgins promised to accept only an average worker's wage and thus accepted less than half his TD's salary, donating the rest to the party and to progressive campaigns. Higgins was elected to Dublin County Council in 1991 for the Mulhuddartmarker electoral area and was until 2003 a member of Fingal County Council, at which point his seat was taken by fellow Socialist Party member Ruth Coppinger. In 1996, he campaigned against local authority water and refuse charges and came within 270 votes of preventing Brian Lenihan, Jnr from taking his late father's Dáil seat in the Dublin West by-election.

Career as TD

He was first elected to the Dáil at the 1997 general election and re-elected at the 2002 general election.
 He contested the 2007 general election held on 24 May 2007, but narrowly lost the last seat.

In the European Parliament election in 2004, Higgins received 23,200 (5.5 percent) votes in the Dublin constituency, double his 1999 result, but missed out on a seat.

Higgins spent one month in Mountjoy Prisonmarker in 2003 as a result of his protest against the non-collection of refuse in his constituency during the Anti-Bin Tax Campaign. He was also prominent in the successful 2005 campaign to bring Nigerianmarker school student Olukunle Eluhanla back to Ireland, after he had been deported by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Higgins remains an opponent of the deportation policy.

Joe Higgins speaking in Dublin 25 June 2004
Higgins also used his platform in the Dáil to raise the issue of exploitation of migrant and guest workers in Ireland. Higgins 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 Amsterdammarker where they discovered that GAMA had been secreting up to 30 million in workers' wages without the knowledge of the workers.

From 2002 to 2007 he was the leader of the Technical Group in the Dáil which consisted of Independents and small parties grouped together for speaking time. Higgins was widely regarded as the wittiest speaker in Dáil Eireann and was regarded as one of few opposition leaders able to successfully criticise Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell once said about him in a debate: "I do not take lectures on democracy from a Trotskyite communist like Deputy Joe Higgins. I know what he really wants to do."

Higgins did not win re-election in 2007, confounding a prediction by RTÉmarker. Although the Socialist Party gained nearly as many votes in other constituencies as it had in 2002, first preference votes for Higgins in Dublin West declined by more than 20 percent. Higgins ascribes the loss of his seat to the 'squeeze' against smaller parties in an election framed as being between two alternative Taoisigh also the fact the constituency boundaries had not been redrawn to allow for the population increase was a factor.

European Parliament seat

He was successful in the 2009 European Parliament election for the Dublin constituency. He won what was a close race between him and the two incumbents, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin and Eoin Ryan of Fianna Fáil, for the third and final seat. On the same day he was elected to the Fingal County Council for the Castleknock ward topping the poll with 3,787 first preference vote (28.07%). Due to dual mandate rules Joe Higgins vacated this council seat in July 2009 and was replaced by Matt Waine.

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