The favourite to be the next leader of the Labour party, Ivana Bacik, has admitted she is throwing her hat into the ring with a certain amount of reluctance.
“To be honest, I was elected to Dáil just last July,” the Dublin Bay South TD told The Hard Shoulder.
“This would not have been a time of my choosing to have any conversations about a change of leader.”
However, the decision has been somewhat thrust upon her; Alan Kelly abruptly resigned last week citing poor opinion polling and a lack of confidence among colleagues. Only a TD can lead the party and Labour currently only has seven.
“Very kindly, people had said since my election last summer that the leadership might be in the future,” Deputy Bacik continued.
“In my view it was in the very dim and distant future and that’s really where it was at.
“This was not the timing of anyone’s choice. But events do move fast in politics and Alan’s resignation was his decision… but the key thing now is to unite the party and strengthen our vision.”
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While only a TD for a few months, Bacik is still a well-known figure in political circles. She shot to prominence in the 1990s campaigning for abortion rights and was elected a Senator for Trinity College in 2007. Whilst Labour served in Government with Fine Gael between 2011 and 2016, she was its leader in the Seanad. This, however, is a position on her CV and a time in the party’s history she is far from keen to dwell on:
“Certainly, there were actions taken in that Government that Labour would never have wished or wanted to take,” she admits.
“But let’s not forget the conditions under which the Government also was operating; at a time when the country was on the brink of bankruptcy and indeed was within a Troika programme and when Labour came out of that Government in 2016, of course [we were in] a much better place financially.”
The coalition with Fine Gael is widely credited with allowing Sinn Féin to become Ireland’s most popular centre-left party and it is currently polling some 20 points ahead of Labour. Even Eamon Ryan’s Green party is more popular than Labour. However, ever the optimist, Deputy Bacik believes the party could yet pull off a Lazarus style revival in its fortunes:
“I would say not to assume anything in politics,” she said optimistically.
“What we have all seen internationally and nationally is how difficult it is to predict with any certainty what will happen in politics.
“So just because a party is doing well in the opinion polls one day does not mean with any certainty that it is likely to be in Government the next.”
Main image: Labour's Ivana Bacik at the publication of paid leave for reproductive health-related issues outside Leinster House in March 2021. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie