Address by Party Leader Ivana Bacik to the 73rd Labour Party National Conference

Ivana Bacik TD
23 March 2024


Thank you comrades,

I want to thank my friend Aodhán for those kind and generous words.

He will make an incredible MEP for Dublin.

As a football fanatic, I’m sure Aodhán would love to be at Lansdowne Road right now, and I’d be there myself, but tonight we have important work to do.

Across Ireland and Europe, many want to sow division and distrust.

But our mission in Labour is to deliver positive change, to build an Ireland that works for all.

Elections over the next 12 months will shape the future of our country.

They say a week is a long time in politics.

Never was that more true than this week.

And on a personal note, I want to wish Leo Varadkar well on his decision.

Politics can take a toll, but it is how we achieve change.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me,

I want to share with you a personal story that has shaped my life.

My Czech grandfather Charles Bacik sought refuge in Ireland nearly 80 years ago with his young family.

I think of his experience, and how much he contributed to Waterford Crystal and to Ireland.

My grandfather’s story, and the story of so many migrants who have done so much for our country, confirms our need to show solidarity with those who seek refuge here now.

Solidarity with those sleeping in tents on Mount Street.

Solidarity with the tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s brutal invasion and war.

Our sense of solidarity – its why Irish people are such a strong voice in condemning Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

And as famine takes hold and the relentless killing of Palestinians continues – we need a permanent ceasefire and the release of all hostages.

Now is the time for Ireland to break diplomatic and trade links with Israel.

Conference, when we see what is happening in Europe, it must strengthen our resolve to elect Socialist group MEPs.

Too many of the voices in Brussels now do not represent our values.

Fine Gael’s European party engages in climate change denial.

Their leader Ursula Von Der Leyen tacitly endorses the apartheid policies of Netanyahu’s government.

Meanwhile Irish MEPs in Sinn Féin’s grouping vote against nature restoration laws and tacitly endorse Putin’s brutal regime in Russia.

So, we must have change.

We must return Labour voices for Europe in June.

If you want a just transition for a sustainable economy,

An EU plan for affordable housing,

MEPs who stand firm against the far right,

And European solidarity with the people of Gaza and Ukraine,

If you want candidates who will stand for equality, solidarity, and fairness,

Then I’m asking you to vote for Aodhán Ó Riordain in Dublin and Niamh Hourigan in Ireland South.

Labour Party Activists are Changemakers

Conference, you may know how I first got into politics.

As a student activist, I faced prison and bankruptcy for providing women with information on abortion.

It took us many years to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Change is never easy – it takes courage and dedication.

It takes commitment from activists – like the hundreds I see here tonight.

We need that activism, that courage and commitment, to resolve the challenges our society faces.

• To deliver homes,

• To protect workers,

• To tackle climate change,

• And to provide care and support when we need it.

That’s our Labour vision – and it’s needed now more than ever.

Because for far too many people, Ireland is simply not working.

No matter how much Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil try to speak the language of equality, they are fooling no one.

Their failing government is more interested in shortcuts and gimmicks.

Didn’t we see it just two weeks ago?

Government members who said one thing but did another – and only admitted it after the count.

Conference, the Far Right is jubilant and on the rise across the country.

They seek to target the most vulnerable, and the government is letting them away with it.

They have no plan to put in place the support and shelter that is needed for refugees – left out in the cold, while vacant buildings lie empty.

By contrast, we in Labour have a clear plan.

To end Direct Provision and deliver a fair and effective policy on migration.

Rooted in our values and our experience as a land of emigrants.

That’s our Labour vision.

And across the country I am proud of our members working with local communities to support those who need our help.

Our campaigns are rooted in our communities.

Like you, I am a community activist.

I’ve campaigned to get new multi-denominational schools opened, and to set up local refugee welcome groups.

Like you, I am fighting for more homes, for better services, for more school places, playgrounds, parks and sports pitches.

I’m proud of our work.

And our communities need us – Labour activists and public representatives who have the commitment to make change.

Because our Party knows how to make change happen.

We are doers – not bystanders or commentators.

Our Councillors and candidates are the backbone of our party – our shop stewards in our great collective endeavour.

Here tonight, we are joined by nearly 100 Labour candidates for the local elections, with more still to be selected.

I am asking you at home to give our Labour candidates your trust and your Number 1 vote in June.

They are working hard to deliver change for you.

And when elected, your Labour Councillors will support public housing and good planning.

They will support active travel schemes and the delivery of decent civic amenities.

But this government continues to strip powers away from your local Councils.

Labour would overturn that, and reform local government so that more of the decisions that affect you are made locally.

That’s our Labour vision.

Broken Social Contract

Conference, our country faces huge challenges.

After eight years of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil rule, give or take the Greens:

• The housing crisis is worse than ever, with over 4,000 children homeless, with record rents and unaffordable homes;

• Food and energy prices are breaking the bank every month;

• And the chaos in emergency departments means sick people are afraid to go to hospital.

Working people are caught in a triple bind:

• Fighting for creche and school places, autism assessments or therapies for their children.

• Fighting for home help hours or medical appointments for their own parents.

All the while, trying to cover the mortgage or the rent, the electricity bill, or the big food shop.

We know that nobody wants this struggle for themselves.

And most of all, no parent wants that for our children.

Far too many young people still living at home with their parents, stuck in arrested development,

Or stuck in a rental trap, paying off someone else’s mortgage, unable to save for one of their own.

Young couples are even delaying having their own children because of the housing crisis.

This is the reality of modern Ireland.

No security, no certainty – a new Precariat.

Our country – which has come so far in so many ways – is now losing some of our best people.

Who could blame younger generations for looking beyond these shores?

This is the tragedy of Ponzi scheme politics.

We keep hearing that the budget books are good.

That resources aren’t an issue.

The problem is, we have government parties which do not believe in the power of the state.

Ministers who are out of touch, have lost control, or have left their jobs.

Focused on internal leadership contests, they want to do anything but govern.

And what are their solutions?

• Reliance on the private sector,

• A tax break here or a one-off grant there.

What good are these for a homeless family, a patient on a trolley, or a child waiting for a CAMHS appointment?

The Government has made a pyramid scheme of our basic needs.

They are giving people a trickle of their taxes back to pay for

non-existent services they should have provided in the first place.

People want radical change.

Not cosmetic change.

The Taoiseach’s resignation is the ultimate vote of no confidence in his own Government.

I personally wish Simon Harris well.

But my challenge to the new temporary Taoiseach is this.

If he has confidence in this Government, he should call a general election now.

Let the people decide on that radical change we need.

Labour’s Programme for Change


The housing disaster is the civil rights issue of this generation.

Building homes will be our No. 1 priority in government.

Last year, I said that we need an ambition for one million homes over a decade.

That’s 50,000 new builds and 50,000 deep retrofits per year for ten years – recognising the real scale of the need for housing and to meet our climate targets.

We can find enough construction workers to deliver both, but the government won’t even pay apprentices the minimum wage, let alone mount a proactive recruitment campaign.

The government attacks our ambition.

But they have no answers when the experts agree with us.

Two weeks ago we put forward our housing plan in the Dáil but the government couldn’t even muster their own ideas to oppose it.

To tackle the housing crisis, Labour would;

• Regulate short-term lets.

• Make homes from the vacant and derelict buildings which blight every town and village.

• Protect renters through reinstating an evidence-based ban on no fault evictions.

• Increase funding for adaptation grants and provide dedicated housing for older people and people with disabilities.

• And we would transform the Land Development Agency into a state construction company to build the homes we need.

These are our red lines for government.

Because we will never solve the supply and affordability crisis with subsidies to developers.

It’s time for stronger state action.

Action that this government cannot be trusted to deliver.

Worker’s Rights

Conference, we know that this government can’t be trusted either to deliver on workers’ rights.

Far too many workers in precarious jobs, far too many who need a pay rise.

We must end the scandal of bogus self-employment and protect the rights of workers in the gig economy.

We must introduce Reproductive Health Leave for women.

And we must ensure that workers can benefit from Artificial Intelligence – rather than being displaced by an algorithm.

Labour in government, as the party of the trade union movement, would:

• Tackle low pay,

• Would use public procurement to lift wages and,

• Would deliver a right to organise at work.

Because united we stand; divided we beg.

That’s our commitment to workers.

Climate Action

We must raise incomes while tackling the cost of living.

Right now, Ireland has the highest household electricity prices in the EU, while fossil fuel companies make record profits.

As part of our climate plans, Labour would focus on how we can cut the cost of electricity for families and small businesses down to the EU average.

This will save families up to 700 euro a year.

Our mission in government will be to make the Just Transition real for people impacted by climate change.

That means a stronger role for the State in ramping up renewable energy.

It means targeted grants for home retrofits so that everyone can afford to upgrade their homes.

It means accessible and affordable public transport.

It means vastly enhanced cycling and walking infrastructure.

It means a Bike to School incentive scheme, safer streets and limits on SUVs.

We stand for clean air, reduced emissions, thriving communities, and better public health.

Our world is on red alert and running out of time.

Our planet needs action now for us and future generations.

Care, Health and Disability

Just as we need action for every generation on care.

On childcare – Labour would deliver a Niamh Bhreathnach moment –

with a guaranteed pre-school place for every child.

And we would introduce a new fair deal scheme to support older people to remain living at home.

Because so many people are terrified of ending up in an overcrowded Emergency Department like Limerick and Cork.

To deliver on the promise of Slaintecare, Labour’s commitment is to:

• Complete the rollout of free GP care that we started,

• Lift the HSE recruitment embargo,

• And reverse the privatisation of healthcare.

And we commit to recognise the true value of care work through decent pay and conditions for carers.

Social Progress

Conference, we respect the results of the referendums on family and care.

But if they had one clear message, it is that the State must do more to realise the rights of disabled people.

That means scrapping the Green Paper, investing in supports, and ratifying the Optional Protocol.

Nothing less than a new bill of disability rights.

And our reforms won’t stop there.

Labour is committed to ending child poverty and in government we would ensure social protection payments are automatically increased in line with inflation.

We would tackle the harms caused by criminalising people in addiction, by repealing section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

We would legislate for assisted dying.

And we would deliver on our vision of a community model of policing with more Gardaí on our streets.

We stand for a truly free education system with enough school places for all children.

Where Church and State are separated.

The Economy and a United Ireland

But, Conference, to do all this, to deliver on our Labour programme for change, we need a strong, sustainable economy.

You know you can trust Labour to create jobs, and to support investment.

We have a track record of delivering growth.

But not just for the sake of a budget surplus.

Rather, to achieve our vision for an Ireland that works for all.

And so that we can plan for the future – a future that will include a unity referendum on our island.

This will be a monumental task, to be approached with an open and generous mindset.

Labour has outlined how we would prepare for a United Ireland.

And that work must start in the next government with a dedicated Department to undertake the necessary detailed work of reconciliation, integration, and unity planning.


Conference, this is our Labour programme for change.

We have the courage to believe that we can change our society.

We’ll be fighting every day between now and the 7th of June, so that Labour representatives are in all the rooms where decisions are made – at local Councils and in the European Parliament.

The stakes are high – our communities need effective representation.

On Housing, on Workers’ Rights, on Climate and on Care.

Hard work, trust in our principles, and collective endeavour.

That’s the future of social democracy.

It is the future for Ireland.

And always has been.

We are the party of deep roots and green shoots.

A party of political passion, of conviction, of integrity and of courage.

We are strong – when we work together.

Ní neart go cur le chéile.

All these things are possible.

But building homes takes Labour.

Staffing hospitals takes Labour.

Tackling the climate crisis – that takes Labour too.

Comrades, let us rise.

If you believe in our vision, work with us.

Join us.

Vote Labour.

For an Ireland that Works for All.

Stay up to date

Receive our latest updates in your inbox.
By subscribing you agree to receive emails about our campaigns, policies, appeals and opportunities to get involved. Privacy Policy

Follow us

Connect with us on social media