Ivana Bacik: Holly Cairns' comments not "particularly helpful"

The Labour Party is hoping to grow in Cork, Ivan Bacik said, and only by working together can parties of the left make things better for people, and deliver a more equal Ireland.
Ivana Bacik: Holly Cairns' comments not "particularly helpful"

Labour Pary leader Ivana Bacik with Alan Belmajdoub, Chairman, English Market trader's committee and Peter Horgan, Labour Party local area rep, in the English Market on Friday 24 March ahead of the Labour Party conference. Pic: Larry Cummins

Holly Cairns and the Social Democrats attacking the Labour Party is not "particularly helpful”, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik has told The Echo, ahead of her party’s conference this weekend in Cork.

The Labour leader made her remarks during a walkabout of the city centre, and although it’s been a while since she lived in Crookstown or Sunday’s Well, on Friday afternoon Ivana Bacik seemed to know every second person in the English Market.

At Moynihan’s, she told Dan Buckle she had vivid childhood memories of dozens of turkeys hanging in the market ahead of Christmas. Dan responded sadly that they can’t do that anymore, and he and Ivana simultaneously deduced the reason why: “Health and safety”.

The talk of turkeys and Christmas put us in mind of next week’s Labour Party motion of no confidence in the Government and the general election that it just might spark, but more on that in a moment.

At My Goodness, the Labour leader was treated to complementary nachos and vegan cheese (delicious), before she strayed away from her handlers to catch up with old friends out shopping. 

Upstairs, in the Farmgate, Ms Bacik told The Echo that should next week’s vote bring down the Government, unlikely as that is, Labour is ready for an election, and she said the motion was deadly serious, prompted by what she described as the Government’s complete lack of contingency planning ahead of the lifting of the temporary eviction ban.

“I honestly thought that the ban would be extended for another period of months, I think everybody did, and not just on the Opposition benches, and we all thought that that would give the Government a breathing space during which they could put in place emergency measures of the sort they are now saying they plan to do.

“We just don’t have any confidence in Government’s ability to do what they have said in enough time to meet the needs of the families facing homelessness from 1 April,” Ms Bacik said.

Labour currently has one TD is Cork, Seán Sherlock, one city councillor, John Maher, and two county councillors, James Kennedy and Cathal Rasmussen, and Ms Bacik said Labour is anxious to increase its representation.

“We want to see an election, we’re ready for it when it happens, we have a hundred candidates already for the locals, we’ve got a great team of reps around the country, and certainly in Cork we’re looking to grow, we have Councillor John Maher in the council, we’re hoping he’ll be in the Dáil, and we have our other local area reps, Peter Horgan and Laura Harmon, and other councillors, we have a strong team in Cork,” she said.

With a nearly identical rival in the Social Democrats, and little to tell them apart from the Labour Party except personality differences, why are there two almost identical parties competing for the same votes?

“It’s the same question that was asked for many years about Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael,” Ms Bacik replied, to laughter from her party colleagues.

“I’ve been in politics a good long time now, and the left has always been accused of atomisation and fragmentation, and we are too fragmented.

“I’ve always in my political career sought to be constructive, sought to unify and build a commonality across the left, what I like to do is emphasise the commonalities we have with our colleagues on the left, because I aspire to a left-led government, a green-red government of environmentalist and centre-left social democratic parties, parties that are serious about achieving change.” 

In her first press conference as Social Democrats leader, Holly Cairns was scathing of Labour.

The Social Democrats have had a bounce in the polls since they elevated Ms Cairns to leadership, but a year after Alan Kelly was ousted as leader, Labour remains becalmed around 4% in opinion polls.

“Opinion polls come and go, but the result we got in Dublin Bay South in July 2021 confounded opinion pollsters,” Ms Bacik said, referring to her own surprise election two years ago.

“If we’d been paying too much attention to polls, we would never have contested that election, we were written off from the start.” 

The Labour leader repeated that one of her priorities was to highlight the areas of commonality between parties of the left, and she alluded to the Social Democrats leader’s comments.

“It’s about trying to unite the left, it’s not about trying to nit-pick differences, it’s about trying to point out commonalities and work with colleagues to achieve our desired objectives, to make things better for people, to deliver a more equal Ireland.

“I don’t think taking pot-shots at other parties with whom we share a common ideology is particularly helpful,” she said.

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