Tuesday 16 July 2019

FG hunt for source of swing story 'entirely inappropriate', says union

Controversy: Maria Bailey dropped her case. Photo: Tom Burke
Controversy: Maria Bailey dropped her case. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Attempts by Fine Gael to establish how details of Maria Bailey's personal injury claim came into the public domain have been described as "entirely inappropriate" by the National Union of Journalists.

An investigation ordered by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is probing whether the Irish Independent became aware of the case through political contacts.

Ms Bailey was suing the Dean Hotel as a result of injuries she claimed were sustained when she fell from a swing there in 2015.

However, the Dún Laoghaire TD dropped the case after this newspaper revealed she ran a 10km race within three weeks of the incident. Court papers alleged she wasn't able to run "at all" for three months.

The controversy caused outrage within the Fine Gael party, leading Mr Varadkar to appoint a barrister to "establish all the facts" around the action.

However, the probe being undertaken by senior counsel David Kennedy has now expanded into trying to uncover the potential source of the story.

Ms Bailey has alleged information was leaked in a "methodical" and "well-orchestrated" way that was "pre-planned to cause maximum damage".

In recent days Mr Kennedy wrote to this newspaper requesting to know the origins of the story.

"I wonder can you tell me how you heard about the case, and obtained a copy of the pleadings?" Mr Kennedy said.

The Irish Independent will not be co-operating with an internal Fine Gael probe, a move that has now been backed by the National Union of Journalists.

Irish secretary of the NUJ Seamus Dooley said the Government party should not expect reporters to divulge sources.

"It is not unreasonable to expect that the focus of the investigation would be the conduct of a TD and whether her behaviour was consistent with her office and the party code of ethics.

"The request for media assistance in revealing the source of the leak is entirely inappropriate at a number of levels," he said.

Mr Dooley said the right of journalists to protect confidential sources of information has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is recognised under Article 10 of the European Convention.

"I suspect An Taoiseach and his advisers may regard the request as legitimate because it was just that - a polite note seeking assistance rather than a court order, but the principle is just the same: you don't ask a journalist or media to breach their professional code of conduct or waive their rights for political expediency."

Mr Dooley noted that if Ms Bailey has an issue with the reporting, she can make a case to the Press Council.

"A counsel-led investigation into sources is not appropriate," he said.

Irish Independent

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