Kieran Walsh

It was great to see Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour) win a Dáil seat finally after many attempts.

This time she won in her home Constituency of Dublin Bay South, formerly known as Dublin South East.

Her grandfather, Karel Bacik, founded Waterford Crystal in 1947 after coming here as a refugee from Czechoslovakia and was an entrepreneur in the post war era.

Karel and Edita Bacik

She spoke in Waterford Treasures a few years back about her connections here after a special address on law reform and another on the Constitution.

Her grandfather’s family on arrival in Waterford back in 1947 lived in Tramore for a number of years, where they rented a home for a period overlooking the Doneraile.

The Baciks would later move to a house near Fiddown, Piltown with their four children and her Dad is a former past pupil of Waterpark College, later becoming an academic. Ivana still has family connections and cousins in this area.

She is a highly accomplished lawyer and academic. She has been the Reid Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at Trinity College, Dublin.   She went to Alexandra College in Dublin and TCD where she studied law and made a name for herself in student union politics as an activist and feminist.  Her Trinity connection saw her elected as a Senator for the three TCD seats, where the well known David Norris is also a representative.

She has been a major activist in abortion debates and a woman’s right to choose and spoke of these topics in Waterford as part of her law reform brief in that discussion that was hosted by Eamon McEneaney, Director Waterford Museum of Treasures.

Her grandfather, Karel Bacik, came to Ireland, where he had connections with the Fitzpatricks, Gift Shop owners of Grafton St., Dublin and sold his crystal from their factory in Svetla pre World War II. On a visit to Czech Republic in 1990, we saw this old factory, when we visited a number of crystal factories to see how they compared with Waterford.

Pre World War II, Karel Bacik had learned that Waterford was well known for glass making from the 1700s to 1800s, through his friend Bernard Fitzpatrick of Dublin, a jeweller and silversmith. After the war ended, they were in touch again and Bernard encouraged him to come to Ireland and set up a business. There had been a push to locate in Carlow, but he liked the Waterford history of Penrose hence the move to Waterford and a small plant was set up in Kilcohan after getting a lease from Waterford Council and then he hired Miroslav Havel as his designer/employee, who had worked with him on graduating in his Czech factory.

The Fitzpatricks would invest alongside the Baciks in the new factory at Kilcohan, where imported soda glass would be brought in from Belgium and then refinished, engraved and cut in Waterford.

1947 was the year of the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia. Factories were nationalised and the Baciks, who had escaped to Switzerland in the war years, came to Ireland for a new start.

At first it was bar ware glass to pay the bills and then Miroslav went to the National Museum in Dublin, studied the old cut glass of Waterford and they launched new Lismore designs and others that were most successful and with the McGrath money a new factory was established in Johnstown and proper glass production took place with foundry furnace, blowing and cutting.

The McGrath investment in the early 1950s paved the way for great expansion. They were part owners of the Irish Glass bottle company in Ringsend, a PLC, and Waterford Glass would also be a PLC in due course. Mr Bacik would remain a director of the new company and also Mr. Fitzpatrick, but in a reduced role. Ivana is now a TD for Ringsend in Dublin Bay.

Con Dooley, sales manager, would make this a top selling brand in the USA among the strong professional Irish there, who were reaping the benefits of the post war boom and the UK would also be a fruitful market as well as the domestic Irish market where tourism was growing.

Workers were hired from Eastern Europe, Italy and Germany to train Waterford workers in glass production and the factory became the biggest employer and Waterford’s greatest manufacturing success.

Rina Bacik (née Murphy), Karel Bacik (grandfather – holding baby Ivana), Edita Starch Bacik (grandmother) and Jindrich Bacik.

Ivana said that she was delighted to see the family honoured with a plaque on the Mall in Waterford at the House of Waterford Crystal.

We wish her well in the Dáil. She has been a strong legislator in the Seanad bringing in many laws with her superior legal knowledge and no doubt will be a great addition to the Dáil but a loss for Trinity. It is reckoned because of her strong identity with the women’s movement she gained a strong woman’s vote and transfers too.

Her election will also be a boost for the Labour Party but a lost seat for Fine Gael, formerly held by Eoghan Murphy, a former Minister of the previous administration. He had complained about considerable online abuse as one of his reasons for resigning his seat and wanted to have a new career.