Wednesday 23 October 2019

Records and court cases to be revealed

New candidate rules after Maria Bailey case

Must declare: Leo Varadkar on candidates’ legal records
Must declare: Leo Varadkar on candidates’ legal records

Gabija Gataveckaite and Philip Ryan

Fine Gael politicians will be forced to declare if they have a criminal conviction or forthcoming court cases, in the wake of Maria Bailey's controversial personal injury claim over falling off a swing in a Dublin hotel.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday announced he expected all Fine Gael elected representatives to make the party aware of any legal case they may be involved in over fears it could have a negative impact on the party.

Candidates going forward for election will make the declaration as part of their party pledge.

During a wide ranging interview on RTE Radio One with Brendan O'Connor, the Taoiseach said the controversy surrounding Ms Bailey's fall from a swing was "not a plus" for the party during the recent election campaigns.

"We are going to make it a requirement now for all candidates to make us aware of previous convictions or court cases they may be getting involved in," he said.

"We can't just treat these things as private matters anymore because they do have an impact on the rest of the party," he added.

A Fine Gael spokesperson said the details of the Taoiseach's proposal were being worked on by the party.

Mr Varadkar said he felt "really bad" for Ms Bailey after what he said was an "ill advised" interview with Sean O'Rourke

"Maria Bailey is a human being. She is a mother, she's a colleague, she's a hard working TD and she's one of the more competent, one of the better ones, one of the up and coming ones, in my view," he said. Separately, Mr Varadkar revealed the Government is preparing two separate budgets which will take into account the possible outcomes of Brexit negotiations.

One draft will be prepared for a no-deal Brexit scenario while the second will be based on Britain leaving the EU with a trade deal. The Taoiseach said there was "growing risk" of a disorderly Brexit and the negotiations were due to conclude at the end of October - just weeks after the Government announces its budget for next year.

"We will decide at some point in September which of those two budgets we will go for," he said.

Mr Varadkar also warned the next budget will be "tougher" than previous budgets irrespective of Brexit.

"By tougher I do not mean tax increases and spending cuts. By tougher I mean we won't be able to increase spending by as fast as we did in the last budget," he said.

Mr Varadkar also said he did not plan to reshuffle his cabinet and insisted embattled Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was doing a "very good" job in his portfolio.

"I'm not going to do that at the moment, we are heading into the Dail recess, we have a budget and potentially a game-changing situation around Brexit at the end of October and I don't want people who need to learn on the job in that period," he said.

He also said removing the border backstop would be as bad for Ireland as a no-deal Brexit. Some contenders to replace Theresa May as prime minister, including front runner Boris Johnson, have proposed changes to the policy.

"What we are open to, and always have been open to, is alternative arrangements that perhaps could avoid a hard border, through procedures and technologies and so on.

"We want to see that fleshed out, we want to see it exist, it demonstrated before we are willing to give up the backstop," he added.

Sunday Independent

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