Saturday 24 August 2019

Maria Bailey removed from Housing Committee role after swing case

“Deputy Bailey signed an affidavit that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running,” the Taoiseach said.

Maria Bailey (Niall Carson/PA)
Maria Bailey (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Maria Bailey has been demoted by the Taoiseach from her role as chair of a prominent Oireachtas committee.

Ms Bailey had been at the centre of a scandal after it emerged she had taken legal action against a Dublin’s Dean Hotel after she fell off a swing in its cocktail bar, Sophie’s.

The action, which was initiated in 2015 – before she was elected a TD for Fine Gael in Dun Laoghaire, claimed that she suffered painful injuries, which resulted in her being unable to run properly.

When the case was first publicised, huge criticism befell Ms Bailey as her own party were said to be cracking down on the insurance industry, in order to fight the high premiums Irish businesses were suffering due to alleged fraudulent claims.

It was also found that Ms Bailey had run a 10km weeks after the incident, despite her claim she had been left severely injured.

An internal review was ordered by the Taoiseach to investigate the circumstances of the claim, conducted by David Kennedy SC, amid further reports that fellow TD and solicitor Joespha Madigan had given legal support to Ms Bailey.

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach confirmed the investigation had been finalised, and he would be removing Ms Bailey as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

“The accident happened and the injuries were real and were confirmed by medical reports. The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim,” Mr Varadkar’s statement said.

“Minister Madigan (then a backbench TD) gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted Deputy Bailey with her Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application.

“Minister Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings. These were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on Deputy Bailey’s instructions.

“There were concerns that a finding of contributory negligence against her was likely and this was communicated to her on several occasions.

“Deputy Bailey signed an affidavit that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running.

“There have been inconsistencies in Deputy Bailey’s account of events to me and the media that I cannot reconcile.

“It is clear to me, that Deputy Bailey made numerous errors of judgment in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she’d withdrawn the case, and her approach jars with that of a Government taking action to reduce personal injury payments, claims and insurance costs to people and businesses.

“For these reasons, I am demoting her and removing her as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing.

“I hope this will send a clear message to other public representatives about taking such cases in future.

The Taoiseach said he would not be removing the whip from Deputy Bailey, because of the “devastating effect this saga has had” on her and her family.

“She has endured considerable negative publicity, public criticism and is now personally liable for significant legal and medical costs.”

He added he would not be publishing the entire internal investigation report, as he was told by David Kennedy that he received the co-operation of the individuals and parties involved on the basis of confidentiality, and: “It would be wrong of me to breach this confidence.”

Ms Bailey released a brief statement moments after the Taoiseach’s from the Fine Gael press office, which said she accepted the decision.

“I began the process leading to the taking of this case before I was a TD, in relation to an incident that took place over four years ago. I regret very much that I took the case,” she said.

“I note that the report by David Kennedy SC has found that this was not a fraudulent claim, and that it would be unlikely that a court would conclude that there was any attempt to mislead on my part. I made no attempt to mislead.

“I recognise and regret the difficulties this issue caused for the Taoiseach and my colleagues during the recent elections. I want to express sincere thanks to members of my family, friends and colleagues who have been personally supportive of me during this recent period.”

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