Wednesday 21 August 2019

Maria Bailey facing revolt from local Fine Gael members in wake of swing-fall case

Angry calls for backbench TD to be dropped from ticket at meeting

Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Cormac McQuinn and Philip Ryan

Maria Bailey is facing a revolt from within her own constituency, with calls from local members for her to be dropped from the Fine Gael election ticket.

At a recent meeting in her Dún Laoghaire constituency, angry party members said the embattled TD should be removed from the ticket.

Members of the Blackrock branch are furious over the personal injuries claim controversy which overshadowed the local elections campaign after it emerged Ms Bailey was suing a hotel over falling from a swing.

It is understood Cabinet Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor attended the meeting on July 4 as did Fine Gael general election candidate and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Barry Ward. Ms Bailey did not attend the meeting.

A source who attended the meeting said there was concern that the controversy had "tarnished the reputation" of Fine Gael in the constituency.

"The other candidates in the constituency are going to face questions about this on the doors during a general election," the source said.

Fine Gael election tickets are being reviewed by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and a final decision on Ms Bailey's constituency will not be made before September.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varardkar tried to downplay Culture Minister Josepha Madigan's role in the controversy.

Opposition leaders yesterday ramped up pressure on her to explain her part in the case that Ms Bailey took against the Dean Hotel in Dublin.

Ms Madigan, whose family's legal firm advised Ms Bailey, has repeatedly refused to answer any questions on the controversy, citing client confidentiality. She left the firm in 2017.

Earlier this month, Ms Madigan said she had read Mr Kennedy's report and told Newstalk Radio: "I am very satisfied with what it says pertaining to me".

Yesterday Mr Varadkar threw his full support behind Ms Madigan and insisted she has no case to answer.

Speaking to RTÉ, he said: "She gave initial legal advice and assisted with the initial application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board but was not involved with the litigation of the case after that.

"She [Bailey] was advised she could be found contributorily negligent because of her own actions. Solicitors act on their clients' instructions - they only give advice. I get advice all the time, but ultimately I am responsible for the decisions I make."

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach sacked Ms Bailey as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee - a role which comes with a salary top-up of €9,500.

He took the decision following the publication of barrister David Kennedy's review of her personal injury claim.

Mr Kennedy advised Fine Gael it would be unlikely a court would conclude Ms Bailey was deliberately seeking to mislead with her claim.

However, Mr Varadkar said there were "inconsistencies" in Ms Bailey's account of events to him and the media which he could not reconcile.

"It is clear to me that Deputy Bailey made numerous errors of judgment in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she'd withdrawn the case," he said.

"And her approach jars with that of a Government taking action to reduce personal injury payments, claims and insurance costs to people and businesses."

The Irish Independent previously revealed Ms Bailey ran a 10km race in less than 54 minutes three weeks after the July 2015 fall. Legal papers lodged on her behalf had asserted she was unable to run "at all" for three months after the fall.

Irish Independent

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