Saturday 19 October 2019

'Most people over the age of four don't need adult supervision' - Opposition criticises TD Bailey over swing fall case

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Picture: Damien Eagers
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Picture: Damien Eagers

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

There has been withering criticism of the legal action taken by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey, who is suing a Dublin hotel after she fell out of a swing.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: "Most people expect that once you are over the age of four you can hold onto the ropes and don't need adult supervision."

Ms Bailey is seeking damages of up to €60,000 after an incident in the Dean Hotel in 2015. She has alleged she suffered head, back and hip injuries after falling from the swing, which her lawyers say was "unsupervised".

The hotel is denying liability, and has claimed in defence papers that Ms Bailey was holding items in both hands when she fell from the swing.

The controversy dominated questions at final pre-election press conferences held by Opposition parties.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the revelations about the case come at a time when "we're desperately trying to get insurance costs down". He said businesses are warning they will close due to insurance costs.

Mr Martin said he didn't know the specifics of the case, but added: "I fell many times as a young fella. I could never understand anyone claiming left, right and centre when you go through the ordinary things of life."

He also said: "I think this does impact on the claims culture. It creates 'who are they in Leinster House to be complaining about a claims culture if they're doing it themselves'."

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that there's a fear "we'd end up in a country where you've got a supervisor at a swing in a pub". He said that would be a "bleak future".

Ms Bailey remained silent on the case last night.

The Opposition criticism came after Senator Michael McDowell raised Ms Bailey's case in the Seanad.

He said if the Government is serious about driving down the claims culture "we cannot stand idly by when adults... fall off a swing and then claim that there should have been a supervisor looking after them".

He said this was especially the case when it comes from someone who has "influence over Government policy in these matters".

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan hit back at Mr McDowell's remarks, saying: "It is entirely mischievous and inaccurate for others to suggest that Government policy is determined by a personal matter affecting one TD."

He outlined a string of measures the Government is taking to tackle insurance costs.

They included three pieces of legislation enacted in the last year, and new guidelines for insurance companies reporting allegations of fraudulent claims to gardaí.

Meanwhile, ministers Regina Doherty and Michael D'Arcy - the junior minister with responsibility for insurance policy - both defended Ms Bailey's right to take a personal injury case.

Social Protection Minister Ms Doherty insisted the Government was "incredibly serious" in its efforts to reform the insurance sector and claims culture. She pointed to a plan to establish a committee of judges to set guidelines for public injury payouts.

She said the Government doesn't want to stop anybody going to court if they feel they have a right to do so, but "what we absolutely cannot have and tolerate is exorbitant claims".

A spokesperson for Mr D'Arcy said he couldn't comment on a case that is before the courts. A statement said: "Each individual has the right to take such a case to the courts if they believe there is negligence involved."

It added that a key focus of the insurance reform agenda is on award levels, not challenging or disputing in any way the entitlement of a person to take legal action.

Irish Independent

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