Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins introduced a motion in the Seanad calling on the Government to support a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-19 vaccine technology and on the Government to publicly call on the European Commission to do the same.

The motion was seconded by Senator Lynn Ruane and co-sponsored by Senators Frances Black, Paul Gavan, Lynn Boylan, Fintan Warfield, Niall Ó Donnghaile, Rebecca Moynihan, Marie Sherlock, Annie Hoey, Mark Wall and Victor Boyhan.

The Government was set to introduce a counter-motion, in the name of Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty.

However two coalition Senators - Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne and the Green Party's Róisín Garvey - said they would not support the stance.

The counter-motion was withdrawn and the original motion from Senator Higgins was passed without objection.

Minister of State Damien English said afterwards that the aim of the counter-motion was to "set out the Government approach to date".

However, he said he made it clear in his speech to the Seanad that the motion "wasn't for pressing" as they "didn't want to divide the House".

Speaking after the Seanad debate, Senator Higgins said: "In a pandemic we need to prioritise public health over profit. The World Health Organization, the United Nations, doctors, nurses, academics and civil society across the world have all made it crystal clear that we need a TRIPS waiver as a first step in the scaling up of global manufacturing and access to vaccines.

"Over 100 countries are supporting such a waiver in World Trade Organization negotiations and just a handful of countries including those represented by the European Commission have consistently blocked the waiver."

"The motion from the Seanad tonight sends a clear message that we want the Irish Government to join other governments like Italy and Portugal in taking a stand in support of a TRIPS waiver and publicly calling on the European Commission to change position and allow for earlier and urgent scaling up of global supply of life saving vaccines," she added.