Thursday 22 August 2019

Hotel in swing case planned to use CCTV to fight Bailey claim

FG TD won’t say if she was given legal advice by minister

Maria Bailey TD. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Maria Bailey TD. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Criticised: Maria Bailey’s radio interview was described as “ill-judged in tone and temperament” by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Shane Phelan, Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

The hotel sued by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey over a fall from a swing decided to defend the case after viewing CCTV footage.

Video evidence from The Dean hotel in Dublin was set to feature in the case if it had gone to trial, the Irish Independent has learned.

The revelation comes as some of the focus of the controversy shifted to Culture Minister Josepha Madigan after Ms Bailey refused to say during a radio interview yesterday if she received legal advice from her party colleague. The minister's former legal firm represented Ms Bailey in the now abandoned case.

Ms Bailey has confirmed that she had a beer in her hand and that she was reaching for her friend's bottle of wine when she fell from the swing - details not included in her indorsement of claim document filed in court.

CCTV was a key factor in the hotel's decision to defend the claim. In defence papers, it alleged Ms Bailey had items in each hand, restricting her ability to balance or hold rope grips properly. The hotel was not commenting on the matter yesterday as, although Ms Bailey has said she is dropping the case, a notice of discontinuance has yet to be issued.

During a radio interview, the under-fire TD refused to reveal if Ms Madigan had given her legal advice before she lodged the personal injury claim.

At the time of the incident in 2015, both were Fine Gael councillors on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Ms Madigan has so far refused to reveal if she personally provided legal advice to her party colleague.

The minister's advisers have said she cannot comment for client confidentially reasons, but they have not clarified if this means Ms Madigan worked directly on the case.

Fianna Fáil frontbench TD Niall Collins called on the minister to publicly address whether or not she was involved. "It serves no purpose to drag this whole sorry episode out further," he said

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to meet Ms Bailey this week to discuss the fall-out from the controversy, while the matter may also be referred to Fine Gael's national executive where disciplinary action could be initiated.

Sources close to Mr Varadkar said he has to "give the situation further thought" before deciding what action to take.

Last night, one member of the national executive said Ms Bailey should "get the door".

In an astonishing appearance yesterday on RTÉ's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke', Ms Bailey criticised the reporting of the case over the past week and attempted to justify her action against the hotel.

She described the media as "judge, jury and executioner", claimed her privacy had been invaded and that "humanity has been crossed".

She was accompanied at RTÉ by experienced public relations advisor Paul Allen, but her own party was unaware she was doing the interview.

Ms Bailey insisted she only wanted her medical expenses of between €6,000 and €7,000 paid and was not looking for any extra damages.

This is despite the fact her indorsement of claim stated she was seeking damages for personal injury, loss, damage and inconvenience in addition to her medical costs. The circuit court, where she took the case, can award up to €60,000 in personal injury matters.

Her comments did not go down well in Government, with some Cabinet members privately describing the interview as "a car crash".

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the interview was "ill-judged in both tone and content", while Health Minister Simon Harris said her defence of the compensation claim was "unfortunate".

"I think when you withdraw a claim that in and of itself is an acknowledgement of the fact that perhaps that claim shouldn't have proceeded. But the interview still seemed to be in the space of blaming lots of other people," he said.

The Irish Independent revealed last Tuesday that Ms Bailey was claiming the hotel was negligent because the swing was "unsupervised" and there were no signs to instruct patrons how to safely use it.

In the RTÉ interview, Ms Bailey said she decided the same day to withdraw the case because she didn't want it to be a distraction and not because she had done anything wrong.

However, she postponed announcing this until Saturday as she was advised it would be seen as cynical to do so in the week of the elections.

Her decision to withdraw the case was announced on Saturday, the same day the Irish Independent revealed a key claim made in the TD's indorsement of claim was inaccurate.

It stated that because of her injuries, Ms Bailey was unable to run for three months.

However, a posting on her own social media account revealed she took part in 'The Bay 10K' race in Dún Laoghaire just three weeks after the incident.

Irish Independent

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