Saturday 17 August 2019

Swing-case TD Maria Bailey got minister's advice on claim

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

Kevin Doyle, Cormac McQuinn and Hugh O’Connell

Pressure is mounting on Culture Minister Josepha Madigan to reveal what advice she gave Maria Bailey before the TD launched her compensation claim over a fall from a swing.

Ms Bailey is to be “demoted” by the Taoiseach as punishment for overstating her injuries in the suit against a Dublin hotel.

She will no longer be chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee, which comes with a salary top-up of €9,500. However, Ms Bailey gets to stay on the Fine Gael ticket for the next election. 

Ms Madigan’s role in the controversy is now under fresh scrutiny. A Fine Gael investigation confirmed that she “gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted” her colleague in the early stages of the process.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said last night that there was “a fair degree of murkiness” about the minister’s involvement in the case.

“I think the minister needs to make a full, comprehensive statement in relation to that,” he said.

Mr Martin said: “The degree of Josepha Madigan’s involvement should be fully transparent and clarified.

“I think the minister needs to make a full, comprehensive statement in relation to that. At the moment we’re being told that the report says she hadn’t an involvement but then we’re told she was involved in the initial documentation. What does that mean?” Mr Martin asked.

"Minister Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings. These were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on Deputy Bailey's instructions."

Mr Varadkar said his Dun Laoghaire deputy had been advised she had a "statable" case but had been warned about concerns that a finding of "contributory negligence" against her was likely.

Ms Bailey dropped the case after the Irish Independent revealed she ran a 10km race in less than 54 minutes three weeks after the July 2015 fall.

Legal papers lodged on her behalf had asserted that she was unable to run "at all" for three months after the incident.

In light of our investigation, Mr Varadkar hired senior counsel David Kennedy to establish "all the facts" around the case.

The report will not be published, but the Taoiseach has given a brief outline of its findings.

He said Ms Bailey did sustain "painful injuries and incurred significant medical bills" after falling from a swing.

"The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Kennedy advised Fine Gael that it is "unlikely that a court would conclude that she [Ms Bailey] deliberately sought to mislead".

However, Mr Varadkar accepted there were "inconsistencies in Deputy Bailey's account of events to me and the media that I cannot reconcile". .

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

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

Demoting

"For these reasons, I am demoting her and removing her as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing.

"I hope this will send a clear message to other public representatives about taking such cases in future."

Mr Varadkar said he would not remove the party whip from the TD because of "the devastating effect this saga has had on Deputy Bailey and her family in particular".

"She has endured considerable negative publicity, public criticism and is now personally liable for significant legal and medical costs."

Irish Independent

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