IVANA Bacik’s story begins in Bohemia, then known as Czechoslovakia, where a talented ornamental glassmaker called Charles Bacik was feeling increasingly threatened by the rise of the totalitarian Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the 1940s.
Charles Bacik worked his connections with Irish business and soon found himself in Waterford engaged in the famed cut glass business there.
Today his granddaughter is set to be elected TD for Dublin Bay South, causing something of a sensation, bucking national trends and bringing a rare and welcome boost to a beleaguered Labour Party.
But the reality is that Ivana Bacik is “an overnight political success” after 22 years of hard graft.
She has spent 14 years as a member of Seanad Éireann for Trinity College Dublin (TCD), elected there four times, and gaining a high profile nationally from prominent roles in radical law-making and championing human rights and gender equality cases.
She has tried unsuccessfully to win three times in other elections going back to 2004, when she partnered Proinsias De Rossa in the European Parliament elections.
In 2009, she stood in a Dublin Central by-election caused by the death of Independent Tony Gregory and was placed third with a creditable vote of almost 5,000 first preferences.
In February 2011, when Labour’s ‘Gilmore Gale’ was beckoning, she failed to get a party nomination in her local constituency, which was then called Dublin South East.
But she was belatedly added as a second candidate in Gilmore’s own Dún Laoghaire area and was very unlucky to lose the final seat to Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit in the 10th count.
So, while this is set to be the “fourth time” lucky in an outing which takes her beyond the confines of the Seanad, she is also in a long tradition of Labour candidates who took many attempts to access the Dáil chamber.
President Michael D Higgins, for example, began his Labour Dáil journey back in 1969, won a seat briefly in early 1981 and 1982, but lost again and it took until 1987 for him to consolidate his seat in Galway West.
Ivana Bacik’s real political journey began in 1989 when, as a high-achieving law student, she was elected president of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union ( TCDSU).
She was an early subject of controversy and resigned after she voted against a TCDSU mandate in a national election, instead supporting a feminist candidate from rival University College Dublin.
Also while leading TCDSU she was sued by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) for defying the law on distributing information on abortion.
The case dragged on and on amid other controversies arising from the 1983 Eighth Amendment, which was only finally repealed by referendum in 2018.
That abortion information saga reminds us that Ivana Bacik began her political career in a very different, albeit changing, Irish society.
It was clear the young Ivana Bacik was among those advocating for the kind social change which is happening in Ireland right now.
“You could argue that Irish society has actually caught up with Ivana Bacik. But it is also clear that Ivana herself has mellowed with age, softened the tone of her arguments and broadened her range of interests,” one Labour veteran of many campaigns, successful and unsuccessful, told Independent.ie today.
Up to now, she has combined her membership of the Seanad with the post of Reid Professor of Law at TCD, a position previously held by two Irish Presidents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.
One of the campaign questions, which she parked, was whether she would continue at TCD while being a TD.
Ivana Bacik’s win means the Labour Party, now led by the feisty Alan Kelly, is preparing for their first real celebration since October 28, 2011.
On that date the Labour Party built on record Dáil membership when their candidate, Michael D Higgins, won the Presidency, and that win was further garnished by a rare government party by-election win in Dublin West.
Since then, it has all been downhill for Ireland’s oldest political party whose existence pre-dates the establishment of the Irish State.
This by-election campaign brought with it rare elements of luck for Labour.
Ivana Bacik was standing in the constituency where she lives and is well-known, as are her parents.
She got a clear run because the former local Labour TD and senator, Kevin Humphreys, generously stood aside.
And she also inspired an army of young canvassers who rallied to her stances on equality issues.
Labour activists have grounds to celebrate. But they also know that by-elections can be deceptive and do not always predict future political trends.