- 07 Jul 21
Ivana Bacik is running in the Dublin Bay South by-election tomorrow. She will be getting the Hot Press vote. And we are urging Hot Press readers who live in the constituency also to give her their No.1. This is a race she can win...
Under any circumstances, Ivana Bacik would be an outstanding Dáil candidate. But there is a particularly strong sense, on the day before the Dublin Bay South by-election takes place, that she is the right person, in the right place, at the right time. The momentum is with her. And being transfer-friendly, she is in with a very good chance of winning the seat. But every single vote will count.
This is her home turf. She grew up in Terenure-Rathgar and lives now in Portobello. In between, she locked her bike every night in a variety of locations dotted around the constituency. She knows it inside out. She understands the complex dynamics at play in different areas. She will serve her constituents well.
As it happens, that is particularly true of young constituents – who really do need better, more articulate, more committed voices now, speaking up for them in the Dáil.
Ivana first emerged onto the national stage as a student politician. She was a campaigning President of the Students Union in Trinity College, with a particular interest in women’s issues. She was among that small number of pioneering figures who were prepared to challenge the stranglehold which the Roman Catholic Church exerted on women’s sexuality and reproductive rights in Ireland.
In her case, it went way beyond talk. She took action.
She was central to the decision made by the Student’s Union in Trinity to distribute information on abortion to women who needed it. In doing so, she showed immense bravery, not least given the climate of fear, censorship and repression which existed in Ireland at the time. She took personal risks on a level that few people would have the courage or the commitment to do.
She was sued by the right-wing Catholic organisation SPUC (The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child), which had been responsible, behind the scenes, for the imposition of the 1983 amendment. She fought the case through the courts, at great cost personally. But at every stage, she stood up for what she believed in: that it is a woman’s right to choose, and that the outright ban on abortion in Ireland was a fundamental breach of human rights.
In that respect, she was among the small number of people about whom we can say with certainty: the victory in the Repeal the 8th referendum in 2018 would not have happened without her. She has made a huge personal contribution to changing Ireland for the better.
And she is still at it
In 2007, she was elected to the Seanad as one of the three senators from Trinity College. Her record is amongst the most distinguished in the history of the Seanad. Having trained as a lawyer, she has used her legal knowledge well, bringing a series of bills before the house on workers rights, LGBT issues and women’s rights, which have subsequently become law. She was a leading activist in the Marriage Equality campaign, which led to the legalisation of Same Sex Marriage, following the referendum in May 2015.
She has campaigned on the issue of Palestinian rights. She is a founder member of the Portobello Educate Together school. She is actively, directly engaged in the campaign to properly and finally separate Church and State in Ireland. And she has also been an important voice on issues to do with abuse, calling on the Government to take financial action against the religious orders involved in the Mother and Baby Homes scandal.
The fact that she was a leading student politician means that she is acutely aware of the needs of young people now. She is in the process of framing a bill that would dramatically change the position of those who rent flats, apartments or houses for the better.
She is committed to a far greater investment in housing by the Government and local authorities. She is from what, historically, would have been thought of as the Michael D. Higgins wing of the Labour Party. And much like Michael D., she has been on the right side of just about every important debate on the reshaping of Irish society over the past 30-plus years.
Finally, this is the constituency in which the proposed new National Maternity Hospital will be located, if it is built alongside St. Vincent’s Hospital. No one is better placed than Ivana to challenge any decision which might be made, to hand over ownership, or control of the ethos of the hospital, to any group that is tied to the Sisters of Charity – as was the plan.
There are other good young candidates in the field, including Claire Byrne of the Green Party and Brigid Purcell of People Before Profit. But the polls have confirmed that this is a two horse race between Ivana Bacik and the Fine Gael candidate, James Geoghegan.
There is no disrespect to anyone involved in the race, in saying that her track record confirms in a hundred ways that, if Ivana Bacik is elected, she is capable of making a huge contribution to re-shaping Ireland in a positive, inclusive, egalitarian way. Tomorrow, the people of Dublin Bay South have a unique opportunity to introduce one of Ireland’s most important progressive voices to the Dáil for the first time.
What to do? Make sure to use your vote. And use it wisely. Ivana Bacik will be getting my No.1.