By Kate Palmer
Senator Ivana Bacik has nominated herself as a candidate for the next general election, it emerged at a Labour meeting last Tuesday. The Seanad representative for Dublin University hopes to contest the Dublin South East constituency on a Labour ticket, according to discussion website politics.ie. This potentially leaves a seat open for representing the Dublin University constituency in the Senate for the next election.
Bacik was among three hopeful Labour candidates who put themselves forward for selection in Dublin South East. Among them were Cllr Kevin Humphreys and the incumbent Ruairi Quinn TD, a previous Minister for Finance and erstwhile leader of the Labour Party.
Bacik is a relatively new member of the party, having joined the Seanad Labour group last September. Previous to this, she stood as a Labour candidate in the Dublin Central by-election in June 2009. She was defeated on the seventh count by the now incumbent Independent Maureen O’Sullivan TD. Since her election to the Seanad in 2007, Bacik’s voting pattern whilst an Independent was predominantly on Labour Party lines.
There has been much speculation among the political community as to whom Bacik’s Senate seat may go. Speaking to Trinity News, fellow Dublin University Senator Shane Ross says, “Ivana Bacik’s replacement will most likely be a voice of independent radicalism.”
The independent member points out that, in light of proposed Seanad reform, “The seats may be changed by the time the next election comes along.” Although President Mary McAleese may dissolve the Daíl at any time, a general election could take place as late as 2012.
“There’s no one obvious successor for Senator Bacik,” says Ross. “It is very difficult to make a decision because Trinity may not have as many seats by the time the election comes around.” Currently Dublin University holds three seats elected by the graduates of Trinity College, seats currently held by Senator Ivana Bacik, Senator Shane Ross and Senator David Norris. The remaining three University seats are shared among graduates of the National University of Ireland.
Fianna Faíl are outspoken advocates of Seanad reform, and recently presented a document to the Minister for the Environment arguing that the Seanad seats should be reduced from six to two. Issued in August 2009, the document points out “currently unrepresented institutions” such as DIT and DCU that presently have no constitutional provisions for legislative representation.
Senator Shane Ross describes Ivana Bacik as a “first class senator, and one of the best influential radical voices in the Seanad. If she chooses to step down, it would be a great loss to the Seanad.”
Currently Bacik’s programme is concerned with the “highly prejudicial nature” of rape trials, whereby judges are given evidence of the sexual history of rape victims. Bacik says, “The argument that the victim was “promiscuous” unfortunately strengthens the myths about rape and can undermine the victim’s evidence in court.”
Ivana Bacik is an outspoken advocate of rights for same-sex couples, women’s equality and says student charges are “fees in all but name.”
It is understood the Labour Party plans to run two candidates in Dublin South East.