Friday 19 July 2019

FG's probe into Bailey swing claim nears end - and includes dossier of coverage by media

Maria Bailey. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Maria Bailey. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Hugh O'Connell and Cormac McQuinn

Fine Gael's investigation into the Maria Bailey compensation claim is to be finalised within days as it emerged that a dossier on media coverage of the case has been compiled as part of the probe.

The inquiry by senior counsel David Kennedy has interviewed all parties involved in the case and has made a number of findings as well as recommendations in relation to Ms Bailey's now withdrawn claim against the Dean Hotel over a fall from a swing.

The Irish Independent has also learned that a dossier of media coverage of the case has been compiled as part of the inquiry's work.

Mr Kennedy, who was appointed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, is seeking to uncover the source of the story, having asked the Irish Independent to disclose how it found out about it. This newspaper will not be co-operating with the probe.

A draft of Mr Kennedy's report is this week going to the parties involved in the matter for observations before being finalised and sent to the Taoiseach either later this week or next week.

Ms Bailey is understood to have been given a draft of the facts uncovered by the inquiry last week and drafts have been exchanged with the Dún Laoghaire TD.

A Fine Gael source with knowledge of the matter said yesterday: "Our work is more or less done."

Mr Kennedy is also understood to have spoken to Culture Minister Josepha Madigan as part of his probe.

She has refused to tell this newspaper what involvement, if any, she had in advising Ms Bailey to take a case against the Dean Hotel for the swing fall in 2015.

Ms Bailey was represented in the now dropped case by Madigans Solicitors, a firm that Ms Madigan left in 2017.

Ms Madigan has again refused to answer questions about the case. She walked away from the Irish Independent when asked about it at an event in the National Museum in Dublin yesterday.

The inquiry's decision to try to find out how the information leaked to the media has been criticised by Fianna Fáil and the National Union of Journalists, while Labour leader Brendan Howlin said yesterday it was "an extraordinary development".

He added: "I don't know whether that's Fine Gael or if it's the barrister acting on his own behalf but the notion that you try to cauterise the wound by finding the source is a very, very odd move... Fine Gael should answer the question - who exactly initiated that odd request?"

Ms Bailey has alleged information was leaked to cause "maximum damage" in a "pre-planned" stunt.

She has not commented publicly on the matter since giving a now-infamous interview to RTÉ last month.

Fine Gael is now facing political calls for the internal inquiry to refocus on the legitimacy of Ms Bailey's claim.

As the party refuses to say whether or not the report will be published when it is finalised, Mr Howlin said Mr Kennedy's report should "of course" be published.

"It's a matter of public controversy and we need to know exactly what they've found out about it," he said.

Irish Independent

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