Wednesday 21 August 2019

Full transcript: TD Maria Bailey's explosive radio interview over dropped swing fall case

Busy: Bailey running The Bay 10k
Busy: Bailey running The Bay 10k
Maria Bailey. Picture: Tom Burke
Busy: Bailey at Longitude
Fine Gael's Maria Bailey. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Áine Kenny

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey has given her first radio interview since the Irish Independent revealed how she withdrew her compensation claim against a Dublin hotel over a fall from a swing.

The Dun Laoghaire TD defended her claim, saying she suffered genuine injuries.

Read her interview with RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke in full:

Sean O'Rourke: It's often said there's no such thing as bad publicity, you have got an awful lot of it in the last week, most of it, virtually all of it, has been bad and it has led to you deciding to drop your case against The Dean Hotel for negligence. You were looking for damages and medical expenses. Tell me, why have you decided to drop this case?

Maria Bailey: Just to be clear I'm not looking for damages, I was only looking to have my medical expenses recouped and I was never looking for compensation. So, what unfolded for me this week, and I will say this has been a hugely distressing, intrusive, abusive week that me and my family have succumbed to, is completely unwarranted through leaked documents last Sunday. I received a call last Sunday from a journalist who had a lot of private medical information about me and I don't know about you but when you go to a GP, do you want people to know why people are there? He wanted a comment and I said I couldn't prejudice a live case and he knew that and he said well I have to fill a story.

As someone who grew up on the sideline of a GAA pitch, I play fair, I don't play offside.

SOR: This was information which he or she acquired through court documents?

MB: We were at the very early stage of preliminary exchanging documents, this was only for listing, it was a closed file, it was not for public information.

Busy: Bailey at Longitude
Busy: Bailey at Longitude

SOR: Were there political dirty tricks involved?

MB: I'm not going to cast aspersions on air, I will deal with that in my own way.

SOR: I can't ask you to name any names but was it done from within your own party or another party?

MB: I'm not going to cast aspersions, I play fair, unless someone was here to defend themselves I wouldn't do that.

SOR: I'm not asking you to name anybody, but you won't say whether it happened within your own party.

MB: This was methodical. It was well orchestrated, it was pre-planned to cause maximum damage and I am the collateral damage in in the interim of that. What unveiled after that was on the Tuesday I decided I was going to withdraw as I didn't want to be a distraction and I was rightly advised it would be seen as a cynical move the week of the local elections and not because I had done anything wrong by the way, I was hurt, I have medical expenses and nobody questions that. The reason it took such good traction was I am the subject of clickbait, I handed them a fantastic headline, I accept that.

SOR: When you say you want to play fair and so forth, what about your colleagues up and down the country saying we got an awful lot of about Maria Bailey, did you give any thought as to what they had to deal with?

MB: Sean, I have been through numerous elections, they are highly emotive times, you are absolutely worn out flat tired by the last week, an election is not won in the last week or lost in the last week.

SOR: Did you look for advice from within the party?

MB: Absolutely. Regardless, the papers were still going to print.

SOR: Did you come under pressure from the Taoiseach?

MB: Absolutely not. Absolutely not, this happened long before I became a TD. I was a councillor at the time.

SOR: Can we go right back to the night in July 2015. What happened?

MB: As you know I'm not a big social animal, I rarely go out,  I'm happy to sit at home on the couch with the kids. We met at a friend's house in Sandyford, we had one glass of wine and we hopped on the Luas and we went to a bar/hotel that had just recently opened. We purchased a drink each at the bar which we didn't consume. We went up in the lift, we saw the swings, nobody was drunk, nobody was messing, they're like polished seats, I had a bottle of beer in my hand and next minute I knew I was on the floor.

SOR: One bottle of beer in one hand?

MB: I had one beer in my hand and I was reaching for my friend's bottle of wine as she was taking her camera out of her jacket, I was then on the floor and I was mortified, I jumped up because I was mortified. I went to the bathroom with my friends to assess, I had a few cuts and grazes. I went down to reception and got some plasters. During the course of this, the hotel have always been respectful.

SOR: Just clarify one thing. Did you have something in each hand when this happened?

MB: That would have been a matter for the judge to adjudicate on and I'm not opening a trial here.

SOR: It's a legitimate question to ask you. You came here to talk about this whole case and why you dropped it so the question of a judge doesn't arise.

MB: It does and I'll tell you why it does matter because I believe in our judicial system in this country and I believe the proper place for that is the Four Courts.

SOR: But you're not going there now?

MB: And let me tell you why I'm not going there. So due to the unbelievable abuse, I wasn't able to go home for three days last week because journalists were sitting outside my home. That is an invasion of my privacy and humanity has been crossed.

SOR: Let's just go back to the bottles then.

MB: Can I just say this, let me be clear here. As a State we need to decide who our judicial system is here, is it the media or is it the courts. The media were judge, jury and execution in a leaked document, a partial leaked document that was not finalised.

SOR: There weren't just the media reporting on it, as is their perfect right, there were former senior ministers, a former attorney general who spoke about it in the Seanad, Michael McDowell.

MB: He should know better, it was a live case.

SOR: There was Micheal Martin.

MB: He should know better too. Without fact, these people should know better without fact.

SOR: You were an irresistible target. How can you sit on a swing and hold bottles and presume you won't fall?

MB: Sean, I was injured, I was the one who suffered an injury, I never claimed for compensation. The hotel agreed to pay my medical expenses, I ended up in A&E the next morning. I never said I stopped living, I never said I stopped walking. I went through intensive physio for three weeks. It is well documented I am an avid runner, it is a cornerstone of my general well being and keeping me medicated to offset cluster migraines. I went through intensive physio and like any athlete I wanted to dip my toe into the water to see could I do it. I paid the price for it that night and I regretted doing it.

SOR: So you're confirming within three weeks of this happening you went on a 10k run... clarify one thing, the date on which this happened?

MB: The date is wrong in the affidavit and I am instructing my solicitors to correct that.

SOR: So it was actually the 10th of July, not the 13th. Okay. Three weeks later after intense physio you ran in a 10k and -

MB: and with pain medication -

SOR: Is it not the case in your statement of claim you said you couldn't do any running for three months?

MB: No... Yes, sorry. It is in the claim and it is wrong. This is where it's dangerous when you cross legal documents at an early stage, the plaintiff has every right to amend those particulars before going to a judge and a judge can adjudicate in due course. I was the one who put it on my social media. I had nothing to hide here. You know me as someone upfront and with integrity.

SOR: You were at a music festival within a week of this happening.

MB: I went to Marlay Park with my friends and I sat on the grass and watched a band and I left and I went home. I never said I locked myself away in a monastery. This is a joke. I had to lock myself away for three days this week and couldn't go home. I am a public figure and accept I'm held to a higher standard but I also expect due process.

SOR: Of course. Tell me this much, in what way do you believe the hotel was negligent?

MB: That would have been for a judge to adjudicate. That is not for your or me. I'm not a legal person. I took legal advice on this and I put every faith into this legal system and I was told I had a clear cut case.

SOR: Do you believe the hotel should have had a supervisor there?

MB: That legal case was put forward, that's what you do when you put forward a case. I asked a number of months back is this worth the hassle. To be honest, I want to get on with my life and I was told you have nothing to fear and I distinctly asked when would this information become public so I could prepare myself for this being out there and I was told this would not be public until it's before your courts.

SOR: Why have a supervisor at a swing?

MB: Look, this is Michael McDowell being ridiculous. This was a live case and he should have known better.

SOR: The fact is it's out there now?

MB: Can we row this out a little bit. In my 15 years elected, one week of my career somebody has tried to character assassinate me and my family and the invasion of privacy I have had and they're trying to negate all the good work I have done. I am so passionate about my job I am not bowing down to keyboard warriors and bullies.

SOR: But it's not just keyboard warriors, you have brought this on your own head.

MB: Sean, I did nothing wrong. I am fully entitled if I was injured to bring a legitimate case.

SOR: If you have filed court documents to say you couldn't run for three months -

MB: They have been amended Sean -

SOR: ...and it turns out you have been running for three weeks and running a pretty good time.

MB: Well, not for me.

SOR: This raises questions in the public mind. Presumably you had some input, you gave information to the legal advisers

MB: You're filling out an affidavit three years after the incident and you do that with the best of intentions but you know that prior to that going to a judge you can amend the affidavit. This was a deliberate leak to cause maximum damage - I'm not quite sure was it to me or the wider party - I'm still evaluating that.

SOR: Was this a deliberate attempt on your part to get money?

MB: It was my medical expenses that were verified, you're only talking €6,000 or €7,000 here. I've absorbed those costs already.

SOR: Do you have private medical insurance?

MB: Yes, I do

SOR: So, why get the hotel to cover those expenses?

MB: Because the hotel offered to pay. I don't doubt myself. I know exactly who I am, I have already been somebody who shoots straight and plays on a level playing field. I had a legitimate case and a judge would have adjudicated on that. What I and my family have been subjected to is incredible. The distress.. the abuse.. I had to come off all social media, I couldn't drop my kids to school because I didn't want to bring attention on myself. I had to lock myself away and work at home with the exception of going into the Oireachtas to do my job. The media - and one in particular - have crossed the line of humanity and invasion here. I am a public figure, my family is not.

SOR: That's the reason why you are a public figure. You had the chance to stand up and be a bigger person.

MB: Sean, I was hurt, I was genuinely hurt. Anybody with a back injury knows you can be fine for a while, you can sneeze or you can get out of bed out of the wrong way and it is sore.

SOR: Nobody is questioning whether you were hurt. The question is where does the responsibility lie?

MB: That is for a judge. Our judicial system is in the Four Courts. It is not judge, jury and execution by the media. Who are journalists accountable to? I am accountable to the people. They will make their own decision.

SOR: Leo Varadkar said you had done the party reputational damage as a result of the publicity surrounding this case in the run up to the election, what do you say to that?

MB: I think yesterday was a big day for a lot of people and a tough day for people who weren't elected. I stand firm in the belief and take responsibility in that my name was on this case but I don't take responsibility that this wasn't a deliberate attempt to have massive impact in the last week of an election on this party. Yesterday and the day before the Greens did absolutely well. A clear message was sent to us to act faster on this issue. In my own constituency we retained the seats that we have.

SOR: So you're saying you didn't do the party reputational damage?

MB: I didn't say that. What he said was it would be hard to quantify. I am a long time in politics. I looked at the exit polls and the main reason they vote for local politicians, it was on meeting the candidate, it was on their work ethic and what they'd deliver for their community.

SOR: Can I ask you this, it's reported in the Irish Independent, which broke the story last week. It's understood Mr Varadkar is minded to refer the matter to Fine Gael's executive council which has the power to expel you for a period of time.

MB: After the week I've had I'm loathe to believe what I read in the paper.

SOR: But nothing has contradicted what was in the paper.

MB: It's been taken out of context and without my side of the story because they knew I couldn't talk about it.  That's not a level playing field - that's an injustice.

SOR: You still won't give us the exact details of what happened.

MB: I was hurt and I am a citizen of this State too.

SOR: Insurance is a hot political potato, we've had people sitting in this exact seat who have been at their wits end and on the verge of tears and sometimes beyond that at the challenges they face and the bills they have because of compensation culture.

MB: That's because of fraudulent cases. Mine wasn't. Don't muddy the waters here. My case was legitimate. I followed the legal advice I got. This case is dropped.

SOR: The hotel denies any liability but it's not going to be judged now. Overall, it is clear you feel hurt, you feel aggrieved.

MB:  I have worked so hard for my career. I am a working parent of two children that balances work with home life…. I have a clear voice and a clear mandate in Leinster House and I want to fulfil my role. There is a silver lining to this. I am very clear who I am as a person. I am very clear what my values are. I am very clear in being an honest person, and I stand over that. I have learned a huge amount about me, about dealing with adversity, media and social media and the impact it has on public opinion, people’s mental health, their wellbeing. But most of all I’ve learned a lot about people, and I will be reflecting on that. I am a strong female politician and some people don’t like that. I will not be bowed down or bullied about words in print.

SOR: Are you fearful of meeting the Taoiseach and explain all this?

MB: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

SOR: Do you think you might be suspended?

MB: No I don't. The Taoiseach knows me as someone who is hardworking and integral, and I see the Taoiseach on a regular basis. I go to him all the time with policies and if he looks to meet me - brilliant - I will use that opportunity to come forward with my policies on regulating homecare, affordable housing and other areas

SOR: How do you move on from this?

MB: I am drawing a line in the sand on this today and I am moving on. I am back in the Oireachtas tomorrow, I have a really busy week. I put my head down and I work.

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