Maria Bailey to lose €9,500 Oireachtas role as Taoiseach demotes TD following 'swing-gate' controversy
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan 'gave initial legal advice' to Ms Bailey, Varadkar says
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey is to be removed as chairwoman of the Oireachtas Housing Committee as punishment for over-stating a compensation claim.
An inquiry by the party also found that initial legal advice into the matter was given by Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, who was a solicitor and back-bench TD at the time.
It also found that Ms Bailey signed “an affidavit (linked to a personal injuries summons) that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has decided to demote his deputy as a result – but he will not remove the party whip from her.
The Oireachtas Housing Committee role is worth €9,500 per year.
In a statement this evening, Ms Bailey said she accepts the decision made by Mr Varadkar.
Read more here: Timeline: How the Maria Bailey 'swing-gate' controversy unfolded
Ms Bailey sustained injuries when she fell from a swing in The Dean Hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street while on a night out with friends in July 2015.
Her claim in the circuit court – where payouts can be up to €60,000 – alleged that the hotel was negligent because the swing was unsupervised.
It was also alleged that her injuries were so bad that she was unable to run “at all” for three months afterwards.
However, in May the Irish Independent revealed that Ms Bailey ran ‘The Bay 10k’ in less than 54 minutes - just three weeks after the incident.
She was advised on her legal case by Culture Minister Ms Madigan, who was a solicitor at the time – but the report compiled by senior counsel David Kennedy makes no negative findings against Ms Madigan.
In a statement this evening, Fine Gael said Ms Bailey “sustained painful injuries and incurred significant medical bills as a result.
“The accident happened and the injuries were real and were confirmed by medical reports. The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim.”
It outlined that Ms Madigan “gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted Deputy Bailey with her Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application”.
“This was a preliminary step which often results in amicable resolution but the hotel did not engage with the PIAB. 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.
“She was advised that she had a ‘statable’ case. However, there were concerns that a finding of contributory negligence against her was likely and this was communicated to her on several occasions.”
Read more here: Swing case TD Bailey is represented by Madigan family firm
Mr Kennedy concludes that it is “unlikely that a court would conclude that she [Ms Bailey] deliberately sought to mislead as other legal documents talk about her running being restricted rather than not being able to run at all”.
The Taoiseach said: “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 judgement 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.”
Mr Varadkar said he would not remove the party whip from the TD because of “the devastating effect this saga has had on Deputy Bailey and her family in particular”.
“She has endured considerable negative publicity, public criticism and is now personally liable for significant legal and medical costs.”
Fine Gael will not be publishing the full report as Mr Kennedy had no powers of compellability and “therefore sought and received the co-operation of the individuals and parties involved on the basis of confidentiality. It would be wrong of me to breach this confidence”.
In her statement Ms Bailey said she withdrew the court proceedings in an attempt "to end the extraordinary media and political pressure that arose from the publication of some details of the case".
"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," she added.