Friday 23 August 2019

Minister faces quiz on swing fall claim advice to Maria Bailey

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

Kevin Doyle, Shane Phelan and Cormac McQuinin

A barrister appointed by Fine Gael to investigate Maria Bailey’s compensation claim will be permitted to quiz Culture Minister Josepha Madigan on what role, if any, she had in the case.

For more than a week now, Ms Madigan has refused to say whether she provided legal advice to Ms Bailey in the lead-up to her decision to issue a personal injuries claim as a result of a fall from a swing.

The claim against The Dean hotel was formally withdrawn from the Circuit Court yesterday morning ahead of a meeting between the Dún Laoghaire TD and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He has now tasked Senior Counsel David Kennedy with trying “to establish all the facts” around the case. Sources told the Irish Independent Mr Kennedy will be allowed “go where he wants” with the probe. 

Ms Bailey was represented by a law firm owned by the family of Josepha Madigan but she has refused to say whether her Fine Gael colleague was directly involved.

She has said: “I took legal advice on this and I put every faith into that legal system and I was told I had a clear-cut case.”

Court papers claimed the hotel was negligent for her fall because the swing was “unsupervised”. They also said she was not able to run “at all” for three months. However, the Irish Independent revealed last Saturday that she completed a 10km race in under 54 minutes just three weeks after the incident.

Ms Madigan stopped practising at the firm in 2017 but her possible link to the early stages of the Bailey lawsuit is now in the spotlight.

The pair sat together on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council at the time of fall in July 2015.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said they will face questions from the media on the matter until they clarify the situation. "So I would have thought it just a matter of common sense that they might do so," she said.

Asked whether he believes his Cabinet colleague should provide clarity, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "This is a matter for a company that I know Josepha no longer plays a direct role in the day-to-day management of, because of course her key area of responsibility now is as a member of Government."

The controversy last night overshadowed an extremely strong showing for Fine Gael as the final results from the European elections came in.

Sources said Mr Kennedy's examination of events will be "wide-ranging". "He's been asked to make all necessary enquiries." His report is expected "within a few weeks".

Party sources also pointed out that a solicitor can only act on the evidence presented to them by a client.

At a private meeting in Leinster House last night, Mr Varadkar appealed to Fine Gael TDs and senators to show Ms Bailey "respect".

She did not attend the Dáil yesterday and was absent from the Oireachtas Housing Committee, which she normally chairs. With the controversy now entering its 11th day, some of the anger within Fine Gael is turning to sympathy.

Privately, a number of TDs and ministers said they feel some of the social media abuse directed towards Ms Bailey has gone too far.

However, one TD said the establishment of an internal review was the "worst of all worlds". "If the review reports positive, it'll look like we all stand by her actions. If it's negative, it'll be too long past the event to matter."

Ms Bailey was suing in the circuit court, which can award up to €60,000 in personal injury matters.

She insisted she only wanted her medical expenses of between €6,000 and €7,000 paid. This is despite the fact her indorsement of claim stated she was seeking damages for personal injury, loss, damage and inconvenience in addition to her medical costs.

In defence papers, it was alleged Ms Bailey had items in each hand, restricting her ability to balance or hold the swing's rope grips properly.

On radio, Ms Bailey confirmed she had a beer in her hand and that she was reaching for her friend's bottle of wine when she fell from the swing.

A note placed on the court file yesterday said: "The plaintiff has wholly discontinued this action."

It remains to be seen if lawyers for the hotel will go to court to seek an order for their outstanding costs.

However, the legal bill is not expected to be large as the case was only in at a preliminary stage when it was abandoned.

Irish Independent

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