Sunday 25 August 2019

Swing-gate: Maria Bailey facing growing calls from within Fine Gael not to run in next general election

O'Dowd breaks ranks and senior figure says many agree with him

Decision to make: Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey is under growing pressure. Picture: Tom Burke
Decision to make: Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey is under growing pressure. Picture: Tom Burke

Hugh O’Connell

Maria Bailey’s political career is hanging in the balance amid growing calls within Fine Gael for the under-fire TD to be dropped ahead of the next general election following the swing-case controversy.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd broke ranks yesterday to publicly call on Ms Bailey not to run for re-election in Dún Laoghaire and a senior Fine Gael source said Mr O’Dowd’s views were shared privately by many in the party. “She’s damaging us across the country,” the senior party figure said.

Mr O’Dowd said the damage caused by Ms Bailey’s now-withdrawn personal injuries claim against a Dublin hotel over her fall from a swing was a cause for concern in the party. “I’d prefer if she didn’t stand,” the Louth TD told the Irish Independent.

Fine Gael Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan yesterday declined to endorse Ms Bailey’s candidacy and told RTÉ the final decision would lie with party members in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, and the party’s national executive.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said: “Back in May I said I believed this type of thing is incompatible with Fine Gael values. My view remains unchanged. Changing a ticket is a matter for our national executive, it’s up to them to consider that.”

Another Fine Gael minister said privately: "I don't think she has a snowball's chance of being elected. If she's going to be a negative towards Fine Gael and cost us a seat, well those are circumstances you can't ignore."

The senior Fine Gael source said: "Fergus is not alone in thinking that. In many ways he is saying out loud what many people are saying privately.

"People reckon she'll lose her seat anyway but it's worse than that, she's damaging us across the country. We have many able replacement candidates in that constituency. It is a key constituency for us."

Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Kazi Ahmed said that Ms Bailey "should think twice before she puts her name forward for consideration" and added that the controversy had "damaged" the party in Dublin.

The Irish Independent previously reported that Fine Gael members in Ms Bailey's constituency want her removed from the ticket.

Fine Gael's election tickets are being reviewed by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and party sources have acknowledged that Ms Bailey's candidacy could hang in the balance. Any decision to remove her from the ticket would be taken by Fine Gael's national executive.

Ms Bailey was selected to run alongside Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell-O'Connor and Councillor Barry Ward in June 2018.

Fine Gael's outgoing TD in Dún Laoghaire, Seán Barrett, said he did not want to comment, describing Ms Bailey's future as "a matter for herself and the constituency organisation".

Defended

Others defended Ms Bailey. Fine Gael senator Gabrielle McFadden said: "I think she has had enough. I think we should be putting our arms around her and looking out for her and allow her to make her own decision. I feel that people should be looking after their own seats and let Maria Bailey look after her own."

Fine Gael senator Joe O'Reilly added: "I wouldn't see that it should be taken any further. I think we should get closure. She has gone through a lot of personal suffering and just lost her dad."

Ms Bailey has been sacked as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee in the wake of the controversy and has said she regrets taking the case.

She did not return a request for comment. Fine Gael declined to comment.

Irish Independent

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