Ivana Bacik locks her bike on Baggot Street where she has arrived to record a podcast with The Currency. Bacik is a familiar presence on these streets and elsewhere in her Dublin Bay South constituency. The demands of revitalising the Labour Party and the need to keep her seat in the constituency go hand in hand.

Her voice is a little hoarse, a consequence, she says, of “testy exchanges” with the Taoiseach in the Dail the day before. Bacik has no interest in what she has called “shouty politics” which some may say is one of the reasons for Labour’s problems in an age dominated by them.

The exchange with Leo Varadkar, which began with Bacik making an intervention on the housing crisis, ended with the Taoiseach making a point about full employment. Again, hardly the stuff that will go viral.

That is not Bacik’s way but then again, it is tempting to wonder what the Labour Party is for, and more importantly, which voters it will appeal to.

Following the podcast, Bacik headed to a press conference to launch Labour’s alternative budget. It was an alternative which included many “radical and realistic” measures, Bacik said,

But the question remains if Labour is radical enough for the voters it should be appealing to. In the recent Irish Times poll, zero per cent of 18-24-year-olds said they would give Labour a first preference. The only time Labour moved above five per cent in the poll was when those polled were asked who they wouldn’t like to see in government the next time. They touch eight per cent with some demographics.

The memory of Labour’s last time in government remains and it is that memory that many within the movement think should mean they stay out of government the next time.

“I think the lesson we learned, or I learned as a party leader, now facing into another election in probably a year or so, is that we don’t look to enter government unless we can be sure of delivering on significant policies that really matter to us and to the people we represent,” Bacik says.

“By the way,” she adds.“There’s many on the far left who will always be in permanent opposition because they will never want to compromise the purity of principle in order to deliver change. But that’s letting down, in my view, the people in the communities we represent to say, we’re never going to go into government. Because then you can never deliver change.”

Bacik has a lifetime in politics and activism. She was described to me as a “liberal rather than a radical” and her role in the great movements of social change in Ireland was critical.

But it seemed that she would be remaining on the periphery in the Seanad until Eoghan Murphy resigned as a TD and she won the by-election in 2021.

“I think it’s important when an opportunity arises for a woman in politics that we don’t say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not my turn’.

Her reasons given in this podcast for why she hadn’t run in the ten years previously speak to the problems women continue to encounter in politics as in all walks of life.

“It was the same with the Labour leadership. It’s not really possible in politics to say this doesn’t suit me and can we just wait? Unfortunately, for women, and I speak for myself too, all too often we’re not as confident about stepping forward. The old cliche, again, is true. As party leader, going out recruiting women, I have found this to be true — that women wait to be asked and are much less likely to put ourselves forward. That is, I think, a product of long conditioning and so on and of culture, but it does need to be tackled. So I think it’s important when an opportunity arises for a woman in politics that we don’t say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not my turn’.”

Bacik has travelled the country during her 18 months as leader but the party has not shifted in the polls. The fate of the Labour party leader these days is to talk about how no party has a right to exist. This may be a reminder to those who are lapsed Labour voters but it also speaks of their perilous condition which is not necessarily a way of winning supporters. “No political party in Ireland has a right to exist. We’ve seen political parties come and go,” she says while being proud of her party’s longevity.

Bacik has a social democratic vision for her party and it means resisting some of the measures designed to win voters.

“Other parties talk about cutting local property tax, introducing mortgage relief, you know, these are not measures that will deliver more homes, these are measures that will undercut delivery of services at local level.”

Her own family experience makes her even more keenly conscious of resisting the rise of the far right. Her grandfather fought in the Czech resistance during World War Two, fled Czechoslovakia after the war when the communists took power and took refuge in Ireland because it was a neutral country. She agrees with the argument made by Fintan Drury in The Currency in January that there is a greater need for leadership that inspires when it comes to combating these small movements.

Bacik says she is in the leadership for the long haul and there is no doubting her commitment. It is the Labour Party’s stamina that could be questioned.