Meet Dublin Bay South, and Ireland’s Newest TD – Ivana Bacik


Eoin Meegan

Ireland’s latest Dáil Deputy, Ivana Bacik has long been committed to social justice and change. Since 1996 she has held the Reid Chair of Criminal Law at Trinity College, Dublin, a position previously held by both Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. She was made a Fellow of Trinity College in 2005. A practicing barrister, as well as teaching criminal law, criminology and penology in Trinity, Bacik always saw politics as the way to bring about change. She ran for the Seanad as an Independent first in 1997 and again in 2002, and then ran as a Labour Party candidate in the European elections in 2004. Ivana was elected to Seanad Éireann in 2007, and in every subsequent election. She joined the Labour Party group in 2009 and became Labour Party Seanad spokesperson for Justice and Arts, Sports and Tourism, later becoming Deputy Leader of the Seanad. She contested the 2011 general election for Labour in the Dun Laoghaire constituency, sharing the ticket with then leader Eamon Gilmore, but failed to get elected. However, hard work and dedication finally paid off in the recent by-election, brought about by the resignation of former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, when Ivana was elected a TD for Dublin Bay South with a huge first preference vote. It was very much a personal endorsement of her and her dedicated work over the years.

Recently NewsFour spoke with Ivana Bacik and after congratulating her on her magnificent win in this constituency I asked her what were her top priorities now that she is Ireland’s latest TD.
“I want to introduce a Renters Protection Bill, which would significantly strengthen renters’ rights across the board, focusing on security of tenure for renters, making the cost of rent affordable in the long term. It is a radical move away from the developer-led model that has been pursued in the five wasted years of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policy. This is something I felt acutely on the doorsteps campaigning, that there was a great deal of distress and fear over increasing rents, and the insecurity that flows from that. Renters are already struggling with the high cost of living and can often barely afford to make ends meet, let alone save for a deposit to buy their own home. The Bill deals with three key issues that renters are experiencing – security of tenure, rents and deposits, and quality of rental accommodation.
“We need to ensure security of tenure by restricting and limiting the situations in which a landlord can end a tenancy. As well as removing so-called ‘no fault’ evictions, on the grounds which allows a landlord to end a tenancy on the basis that they intend to sell the property within three months, or to move a family member in.
“Unaffordable rents are crippling renters. There are structural things that need to be dealt with to make renting more affordable for all people – single people, married people, young workers, retired people. I have been particularly struck by the many single people who are renting small studios that they can’t quite make to feel like home. More than 400,000 people in Ireland live alone. Single income households are growing and deserve affordable rental options.
“There is a power imbalance between renters and landlords. Landlords can charge what they want with very little transparency expected of them. To redress this imbalance, I want to amend the private residential tenancies register to provide full clarity for renters. This means having a three year rent freeze; and beyond that date, rents would be capped and linked to the Consumer Price Index, a practice that already exists in many other European states, such as Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. We need to make renting more affordable and ensure that people see it as a viable, long-term option.
“Another major priority of mine is for the provision of safe playing spaces for children. I am currently working with councillor Mary Freehill on this to have the Cathal Brugha grounds in Rathmines made available for local children. You have a great resource here in Clanna Gael in Dublin 4 but there’s nothing like that in Dublin 6 or 6 west, or Dublin 8. I am calling for the Department of Defence to transfer ownership for the playing pitch at CBB to Dublin City Council so that it could be developed as a facility and amenity for children to play. There is a huge need to have these playing fields and sports amenities made available for children in the Rathmines and Ranelagh area.”
You have taken the seat of the former Housing Minister, whose record was anything but glorious given his portfolio. How are you going to tackle the housing issue?
“Housing was a major plank of my election campaign, the problem is the supply of housing. My predecessor failed to deliver for too long in this area, and I think that was largely because the entire approach was driven by an ideology that the market would deliver the houses. Which of course it didn’t.
“Public investment, not private speculation, is the way out of our current mess. A doubling of public investment in housing, as recommended by the ESRI, would see approximately 18,000 new homes being built each year. These homes could be delivered by local authorities or in partnership with non-profit housing associations. The important thing is affordability – whether people are renting or seeking to purchase a home. Unfortunately, our current Government equates affordable means by reference to market value. And that’s an ideological thing. Affordability must instead be linked to people’s real-life incomes, not to an estate agent’s wish list. For decades, those renting social housing from Dublin City Council or other local authorities have paid what is called a ‘differential rent’, based on their income. If their income changes their rent is adjusted. That is how public housing is also provided in dozens of European cities – and we need to adopt this model to work throughout our housing policy.
“Along with protection for renters, this would help bring calmness to the market. At the moment the average monthly rent in this constituency is about €2,111 a month, as my colleague Rebecca Moynihan has recently pointed out, which is unsustainable when people also have to live, save for a mortgage and so on. We also need to be able to rent long term, as well as rent unfurnished homes, which we don’t have at present and which is a norm in other European countries. Then renting becomes a more sustainable option. I am aware too of the arguments against the Vienna model, and they are not sustainable, basically that it would push landlords out of the market, but this has not been borne out. I think those kinds of arguments are all part of a misguided fear.”
An unapologetic feminist, Bacik has been an experienced and passionate legislature all her life, having achieved the distinction during her tenure in the Seanad of having more bills passed than any other Senator, on issues such as workers’ rights, women’s health conditions, and LGBT equality. Following the revelations of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which found that hundreds of babies had died in care homes run by the Catholic Church, she called for the government to take financial action against these religious institutions, which they have failed to do. She was also actively involved both in the Equality Referendum and in the Repeal the Eight, and in 2020 called for non-Irish frontline medical workers fighting Covid-19 to be fast-tracked for Irish citizenship as had happened in other countries. She has ideas to shake up health care as well.
“I am calling for a Donogh O’Malley moment in child care. We need to start as young as possible. I have led a campaign for the introduction of a universal public childcare system, providing high-quality affordable childcare options for all parents and children. For many families childcare places are not available or are too expensive. I am also working with parents’ groups across the constituency to ensure that more funded places are available in local schools for children with autism and additional needs.
“I also want to help the elderly and people who need support. For too long, state funding has prioritised care in nursing homes and institutions over home care. I want a New Fair Deal that provides funding to support the independence of older persons and those who choose to remain at home. I think given the choice many would.”
The proposed Sandymount Cycle Lane (which NewsFour has covered previously) has proven to be a bone of contention in the area, with people equally divided between being for and against it.
“As a keen cyclist myself I am in favour of it, but have some concerns about how it was carried out. Some people have said they were not consulted and this is not right. However, we must await the High Court’s decision on the outcome.”
When Bacik was President of the Students Union at TCD she was brought to court by SPUC (the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child). Those were dark days back in the 1980s. In the Eight Amendment to the constitution abortion was prohibited here, but this group wanted to prevent students providing information, which was an entirely different matter, one which that amendment clearly didn’t cover. The students union and Ivana were taken to court and threatened with imprisonment. Ivana credits Mary Robinson, their then legal counsel with resolving the matter by having the case sent to the European Court of Justice.
“There is still a lot of unfinished business to do. I am calling for a ban on conversion therapy, and a review of the abortion legislation which can still make it difficult for people to access services.”
In the news recently, particularly in the UK, there has been a lot of talk about how young girls are still subject to verbal abuse, comments on their clothing, and even physical violence, leaving many afraid to walk home alone.
“This is a perennial issue, and I am saddened that a new generation of girls should still have to face this kind of harassment. But I think the best way to tackle it is through more education, more co-ed schools, less gender stereotyping, and of course more women in politics.”
Ivana’s surname is Czech. After the war when her grandfather was released from a Nazis prison and returned to the then Czechoslovakia where he operated a glass factory, he feared the new Communists threat and so decided to move his family to Ireland. There he was instrumental in the development of Waterford Glass. Her mum, a feminist from Kilkee in Co Clare, is also a big influence on Ivana.
“She is a very strong feminist and woman, and brought us up to believe in equality. And she was a great support during my campaign.”
Ivana is also the author of several books, including ‘Gender Injustice’, ‘Crime and Poverty in Ireland’ (with Michael O’Connell), and her 2004 offering ‘Kicking and Screaming: Dragging Ireland into the 21st Century’. I asked Ivana who in life inspired her most.
“One important person was Anne O’Connor, a history teacher at Alexander College where I attended, also Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. In literature I was very much inspired by the works of Simone de Beauvoir and Marlene French.”
And to end the interview I had to ask her one final question. Given the position she held in Trinity, and the two illustrious women who held it before her, is there any chance perhaps, that she will one day follow in their footsteps?
Ivana just laughs, and says “at the moment I’m concentrating all my efforts on doing the job I was elected to. And when people ask me that question, which they sometimes do, my reply is always the same, ‘my name isn’t Mary.’”

That about sums it up.