Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Humanity has been crossed' - swing fall TD Maria Bailey attempts to defend compensation claim live on air

  • FG TD insisted she only wanted her medical expenses paid and was not looking for any extra damages
  • Maria Bailey speaks to RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke about dropping her compensation claim
  • Varadkar has admitted the case caused 'reputational damage' at a time when the Government is under pressure over insurance costs for business
  • Simon Harris says she should have showed 'more humility' in interview
Severe pain: Maria Bailey alleged that she was unable to run at all for three months after the
incident. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Severe pain: Maria Bailey alleged that she was unable to run at all for three months after the incident. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Kevin Doyle and Áine Kenny

FINE Gael TD Maria Bailey claimed "humanity has been crossed" as she attempted to defend her compensation claim for falling off a swing.

In an astonishing radio interview, the Dun Laoghaire TD sought to justify her action against a well-known hotel which has dominated headlines over the past week.

As part of her claim it was stated that the swing in the The Dean Hotel was "unsupervised" and there were no signs to instruct patrons how to safely use it.

Speaking on RTÉ’s 'Today with Sean O’Rourke', Ms Bailey said the seat of the swing was polished when she fell backwards.

She insisted she only wanted her medical expenses paid and was not looking for any extra damages.

"It was my medical expenses that are verified, you’re only talking six or seven thousand [euro] here. I’ve absorbed those costs already," Ms Bailey said.

In their defence papers, the hotel claimed the TD was holding items in both hands during the incident. Today, she confirmed that she was holding a bottle of beer and reaching for a friend’s bottle of wine when she slipped.

The interview has gone down very badly in Fine Gael circles. Sources told that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was not aware that Ms Bailey was going on radio.

Maria Bailey. Picture: Tom Burke
Maria Bailey. Picture: Tom Burke

And Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty who appeared on the programme immediately after her colleague said: "I think it’s a pity she came on the radio. I think she did herself a disservice."

During the interview, Ms Bailey said she withdrew the Circuit Court claim because of the publicity it had generated in the run -up to the local and European elections.

But she lashed out at the media for reporting "leaked documents".

The Irish Independent reported how in her legal submission it was alleged she couldn’t run "at all" for three months– but Ms Bailey ran a 'The Bay 10k' race three weeks after the incident in July 2015.

"It’s well documented that I am an avid runner… running is a cornerstone of my general wellbeing and keeping me medicated to offset cluster migraines," Ms Bailey said today.

"I went through intensive physio, and like any athlete I wanted to dip my toe into the water and see if I could compete. Now I paid the price for it that night, and I regretted doing it."

She said she never denied running three weeks after the alleged accident and she put it on her social media. She added that she was on pain medication.

The first-time TD went on to explain that the claim said she couldn’t run for three months but this was "wrong".

"This is where it is dangerous when you cross legal documents at an early stage."

Ms Bailey went on to heavily criticise the reporting of the case.

"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."

The Dublin TD said that as a state, we need to decide who our judicial system is.

"Is it the media, or is it the courts? The media were judge, jury and executioner… in a leaked document that was not finalised."

When asked about the numerous politicians who commented on the case including Senator Michael McDowell and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Ms Bailey said they should have "known better without fact".

She argued her private medical records have found their way into the public domain unfairly.

"When you go to your GP, do you want people to know you were there?

"That’s not a level playing pitch. And as somebody who grew up on the side-line of a GAA pitch, I play fair. I don’t play offside," she said.

Ms Bailey said she would not cast aspersions on how the legal documents got out but added: "This was methodical, this was well orchestrated, this was pre-planned to cause maximum damage and I am the collateral damage.

"I was hurt. I have medical expenses. Nobody questions that here."

Describing the night of her fall, she said; "nobody was drunk and nobody was messing".

After she fell, she said she went down to bathroom to assess.

"I had a few cuts and grazes... I went down to the reception, I asked for some plasters."

The Fine Gael TD also commended the Dean Hotel; "The hotel has always been respectful and very decent."

She confirmed the hotel had agreed to pay her medical expenses but the case went legal.

"I ended up in A&E the next morning. Nobody else got hurt here except me. I never said ‘I stopped living,’ I never said ‘I stopped walking’," she said.

"Three weeks later I went through intensive phsyio."

Ms Bailey said she couldn’t determine whether the hotel was negligent because that would have been for a judge to adjudicate. 

"I’m not a legal person; I took legal advice on this… I was told I had a clear-cut case.

"I asked a number of months back, ‘do you know what, is this worth the hassle?’, because to be honest I just want to get on with my life.

"I am not bowing down to keyboard warriors and bullies.

"I did nothing wrong. I am fully entitled if I was injured to bring a legitimate case."

When asked about the errors in the legal documents, she said; "you’re filling out an affidavit three years after the incident. You do that with the best of intentions. But you know that prior to that going before the judge you can amend that affidavit."

She confirmed she had private medical insurance.

"The hotel offered to pay, and your private medical doesn’t cover your entire medical costs.

"I don’t doubt myself; I know exactly who I am.

The media, and one in particular, have crossed the line of humanity and invasion here. And I am a public figure. My family are not.

"I was hurt, I was genuinely hurt. Anyone with back injury knows you can be fine for a while, you can sneeze or you can get out of bed the wrong way and your back is sore. It is a constant management of back."

Bailey said the determination of who is responsible lies with a judge.

"After the week I’ve had I am loathe to believe what I read in the paper… it's been taken out of context and without my side of the story because they knew I couldn’t talk about it.

"I have done nothing wrong here... I was hurt, and I am a citizen of this state too."

She concluded the interview by saying that she is "a strong female politician and some people don’t like that".

She said she was "absolutely not" fearful of meeting the Taoiseach this week and having to explain herself.

It’s understood Leo Varadkar is minded to refer the episode to Fine Gael’s executive council which has the power to expel the TD from the party for a period.

"The Taoiseach knows me as someone who is hardworking and integral, and I see the Taoiseach on a regular basis," she said.

"I am drawing a line in the sand on this today and I am moving on, I am back in the Oireachtas tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has described Maria Bailey’s defence of her compensation claim as “unfortunate”.

He said she should have met with the Taoiseach before trying to publicly address the controversy that has engulfed Fine Gael in recent days.

Asked whether party will take disciplinary action, Mr Harris said Leo Varadkar “has options”.

The minister, who is a second cousin of Ms Bailey, suggested she should have shown more humility.

“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.

He said Fine Gael members “up and down the country would have appreciated that if it was going to be withdrawn that it would have been done before the local and European elections.

“I think if that had happened the situation could have more effectively dealt with it.”

Mr Harris said the TD took part in the interview without informing party headquarters.

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