On 15th December 2021, the Irish Senate (Seanad Éireann) passed unanimously a motion in support of the WTO TRIPS waiver proposal, referencing the work of Dr Luke McDonagh of LSE Law School.
The proposal put forward by India and South Africa in October 2020 to waive temporarily international IP rights on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments has the support of more than 100 countries, including the US and China. Crucially, however, the UK and EU continue to block the measure at the WTO. Ireland has been part of the German-led group of EU member states that have not supported the proposed waiver at the WTO. Instead, the EU Commission has put forward a counter-proposal to the TRIPS waiver that adds little to the existing system of compulsory licensing under TRIPS.
The recent Irish Senate motion offers robust support to the India/South Africa TRIPS waiver proposal and criticises the EU counter-motion as an inadequate response to the pandemic, particularly given the risk of new Covid-19 variants emerging among unvaccinated populations. The motion thus puts pressure on the Irish and EU governments to change their stance at the WTO.
Along with Dr Aisling McMahon of Maynooth University, Dr Luke McDonagh has been advising the leading Irish Senator and proponent of the motion, Alice-Mary Higgins, on the content of the legal proposal. During the debate Senator Higgins remarked:
“I would like to address the [EU] counter-motion [to the TRIPS waiver] because it doesn’t stand up. And I would like to thank Aisling McMahon of Maynooth University and Luke McDonagh of the London School of Economics and the many experts who have rebutted it… The idea that manufacturing capacity wasn’t there was disproved last spring… The idea that this kills incentives for innovation – that doesn’t stand up. We heard that argument on sharing HIV drugs and it didn’t stand up.”
The full speech by Senator Alice-Mary Higgins can be watched from 07:42:58 of the 15/12/21 Seanad debates available here (Dr McDonagh is thanked at 07:52:28):
Dr McDonagh - along with Dr Siva Thambisetty (LSE), Dr Aisling McMahon (Maynooth), Dr Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent) and Prof Graham Dutfield (Leeds) - is a co-author of a LSE Law Working Paper on the TRIPS waiver proposal published in May 2021, which is available here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3851737