O'Higgin, Bernard (d. c.1563), catholic bishop of Elphin, was probably from Leyney, Co. Sligo. In 1517 he entered the order of Augustinian friars, possibly at the monastery of Corpus Christi at Banada, Co. Sligo, the first house of the Observant movement founded in Ireland. In early 1542, the Irish Augustinians sent him to Rome as their representative. During the preceding years, the government had suppressed all of the Augustinian friaries outside Connacht, and a number of leading Irish Augustinians had defected to protestantism. O'Higgin discussed this disastrous state of affairs with Girolamo Seripando, prior general of the Augustinian friars, at Rome in March or April 1542. On 10 April Seripando appointed him vicar general of the Augustinians in Ireland for a period of six months, in which time he was to hold a chapter of the order with the intention of electing a permanent vicar general. On 5 May he was appointed bishop of Elphin (consecrated 7 September), which explains why he was not himself considered for the post of permanent vicar general.
O'Higgin returned to Ireland, where his fortunes fluctuated. He appears to have overseen the election of a new vicar general and succeeded in restoring discipline and morale to his order. However, he failed to establish himself as bishop. In the north of his diocese the crown-appointed bishop, Conach O'Shiel, held sway, thanks to the patronage of Manus O'Donnell (qv), lord of Tír Conaill. Further south the local secular clergy, having become accustomed to absentee bishops, refused to accept his authority. Bereft of political support, he returned to the continent, possibly in 1544. In November 1552 he was at Rome where he was empowered by Cristoforo da Padua, prior general of the Augustinians, to hold a chapter and organise the election of a new vicar general for Ireland, a new vacancy having apparently occurred. Morover O'Shiel's death in 1551 had probably given him fresh hopes of making good his claim to the bishopric of Elphin. He travelled to Ireland in early 1553 but he failed to reform the order or even to hold a chapter, and expressed his dismay at the indiscipline and disorder of the Irish Augustinians. Neither was he successful in his second attempt at establishing himself at Elphin, where he was no match for his new crown-appointed rival Roland Burke (qv), who had close ties with the powerful Burkes of Clanricard. The accession of the catholic Queen Mary in 1553 led Burke to relinquish his claim to Elphin. O'Higgin was formally recognised as bishop by the royal government, but it made no difference: he did not have enough local influence to perform his duties as bishop and left Ireland in 1554.
He went first to Lisbon, and then spent three years between the Spanish priories of Burgos, Madrid, and Toledo, before returning to Portugal in 1558. By October 1561 he had resigned as bishop of Elphin. O'Higgin, who tried to reorganise the Augustinian friars in Ireland in the midst of the reformation and who twice failed to become de facto bishop owing to local opposition, died at Villaviciosa, Portugal, in or before August 1563. During his final exile, his Augustinian colleagues were impressed by his religiosity, regarding him wrongly as the victim of protestant persecution.