Ivana Bacik confirmed as Labour Party leader: ‘Ireland needs a pay rise’

Dublin Bay South TD says politics ‘not about shouting matches’ or ‘tearing people apart’

Ivana Bacik has become the 14th leader of the Labour Party after nominations for the position closed at midday.

Ms Bacik had the backing of the parliamentary party after former leader Alan Kelly resigned earlier this month.

In a speech delivered before party members at Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre, Ms Bacik said she did not believe politics was about “contrived shouting matches” or “tearing people apart.”

“I’ve been a campaigner for change all my life. I didn’t become a political activist because I had all the answers – and I still don’t. I didn’t become involved in politics because that’s what my family expected, far from it. I became involved in politics because I listened. I listened in a grotty students’ union office back in the late 80s.”


Speaking about the challenges ahead she said Ireland is entering an “era of serious politics”. “We should not trust anyone who says the next few years will be easy. That’s a myth.”

She said Labour is pressing for an immediate “mini-budget” to address the cost of living. “Most importantly, I believe that Ireland needs a pay rise.”

She also said that other solutions should be looked at including energy price caps. On Wednesday, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he had examined the issue but did not think such caps would be feasible.

Ms Bacik said that energy companies need to be given a “clear message that they must share the burden of increased wholesale energy costs” and that a windfall profit tax should be imposed on energy companies.

In the coming months the Labour Party has also committed to publishing a new strategic economic plan addressing climate issues.

Labour history

During a press conference, Ms Bacik defended the Labour Party’s history in government and declined to give commitments about whether the party would seek to enter government after the next election, or whether the party would speak to Sinn Féin as part of this.

On the 2011-2016 government, she said: “That was a government in which Labour ministers had to made choices that no Labour ministers would ever wish to make. But it was a government that inherited a country that was bankrupt. It was a government that pulled us back from the brink financially and that left office in 2016 leaving the country in a better space financially. We have now been out of government longer than we have been in it. I do think it is time for us to move on.”

She said people in their 20s now would not have had the opportunity to vote during that time.

Asked specifically if she herself stands over the decisions made by 2011 government she did not answer and simply said “my record is there”.

On why working-class voters should vote for Labour and not Sinn Féin, she said “we are saying to people from all over the island, from urban and rural communities, from working class and middle class, young and old, gay and straight, whatever your background or ethnicity, you are very welcome to join the Labour Party.”

She said people are joining the party in “increasing numbers” because “of that vision for change.”


She declined to set targets for seats or polling. She also declined to say whether the Labour Party would enter government with Sinn Féin saying it was “far too soon to even think about that”.

On the topic of going into government generally she said: “I think it’s too soon to say but certainly Labour is a party that has always been serious about seeking to deliver on change.”

Ms Bacik was on a career break from her role as an associate professor in Trinity College before her election and she said she will now consult with the college about another role.

“Career breaks are really important for giving people exactly that, a safety net . Particularly for women leaving work, for taking time off for work and career breaks should also be available for men. They should also be facilitated in the public and private service.”

“I’m going to speak to Trinity before I speak to the media.”


On childcare, Ms Bacik said earlier a “Donogh O’Malley moment” is needed for early years education and care, referring to the late Fianna Fáil minister who introduced free secondary school education in the State.

This would see a guarantee given for a publicly funded pre-school place for every child in the country.

In her concluding remarks in her speech, she spoke about her paternal grandfather Charles Bacik.

“In the aftermath of World War II, he came to Ireland from Czechoslovakia with his young family. And here he found a country which welcomed him and offered him the opportunity to make a real contribution to his new community in Waterford. My family’s experience is partly why Ireland’s response to Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine has moved me so deeply.”

Ms Bacik was elected as a TD for Dublin Bay South in July last year, replacing former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy. She is a 53-year-old long-time activist who has served as a senator, a lawyer and lecturer in Trinity College Dublin.

Mr Kelly resigned from the position at the beginning of March after he lost the confidence of his colleagues in the parliamentary party. As he announced his resignation, he acknowledged there had been concerns about Labour’s polling performance and said the move followed a “number of frank discussions”.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times