Tuesday 22 October 2019

Maria Bailey returns to work amid controversial swing fall compensation case

Maria Bailey is chairing a meeting of the Oireachtas Housing committee
Maria Bailey is chairing a meeting of the Oireachtas Housing committee

Wayne O’Connor and Kevin Doyle

FINE Gael TD Maria Bailey is back at work amid controversy over her personal injury case.

Ms Bailey is chairing a meeting of the Oireachtas Housing committee this morning, her first appearance at the committee since news of her claim against the Dean Hotel first broke last month.

Key figures within the party have said the compensation case following her fall from a swing in the hotel’s bar in July 2015 played a role in the recent elections and may have cost the party vital council seats.

Controversy surrounding Ms Bailey's case began in the final week of the campaign, with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan conceding the "optics have not been good" after the elections.

She did not withdraw her case until the day of the election count.

Fine Gael chiefs are expecting to receive the conclusions of an ‘internal review’ into the controversy in the coming days.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked a senior counsel to “establish all facts” around the case.

Ms Bailey has agreed to co-operate with the probe by barrister David Kennedy as have The Dean Hotel.

The claim suggested the swing should have been supervised. Court papers also stated that the TD was unable to run “at all” for three months after the incident.

But the Irish Independent revealed last month that she competed in a 10km race three weeks after the fall.

Alan Farrell in the Dáil today
Alan Farrell in the Dáil today

Ms Bailey insisted she only wanted her medical expenses of between €6,000 and €7,000 paid and was not looking for any extra damages.

This is despite the fact her endorsement of claim stated she was seeking damages for personal injury, loss, damage and inconvenience in addition to her medical costs. The circuit court, where she took the case, can award up to €60,000 in personal injury matters.

Ms Bailey had missed an Oireachtas Housing Committee meeting last month after news of the claim became public.

Separately, her party colleague Alan Farrell chaired the Dáil today.

Mr Farrell featured in a special RTÉ 'Prime Time' report last week on whiplash injuries.

Fine Gael TD Farrell alleged he would need more than €880 of repairs to his car after a minor collision - but later dropped a claim for material damage after photos of the vehicle were shown in court.

The Dublin TD alleged he suffered a whiplash injury for up to 18 months following the incident, which happened in Drumcondra, north Dublin, in April 2015.

He brought a personal injuries claim for up to €15,000 against Hertz Rent-A-Car after the collision with one of its vehicles.

He submitted an invoice quoting for repairs to his vehicle of €882.84 - which included €600 for labour costs and €156.23 for paint materials.

However, in court Mr Farrell later dropped his claim for this material damage - three years after the accident.

Pictures of his vehicle after the collision and an invoice estimating the cost of repairs were shown on the RTÉ 'Prime Time' programme broadcast last week.

In response to the programme, Mr Farrell pointed out that a judge had already adjudicated on the matter and liability had been admitted.

The driver of the Hertz vehicle had been inching forward and panicked when a spider fell on to her arm, the court was told.

The van she was driving subsequently rolled into the back of Mr Farrell's Audi A6 at a speed of around 8kmh, Dublin District Court heard.

Deputy Farrell said he suffered pain and stiffness afterwards, having to curtail activities like running.

Mr Farrell was awarded €2,500 for his injuries, but Judge Michael Coghlan said there was "little or no notation to back up a claim of significant whiplash".

"In the circumstances I consider it to be a very minor injury," he said.

When asked about his decision to drop the material damage claim, Mr Farrell said: "My case was adjudicated on by a District Court judge. Liability for the accident was admitted and I am satisfied that the matter is concluded. I have no further comment."

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