Sunday 25 August 2019

Taoiseach defends Minister Josepha Madigan, says he won't seek to publish Maria Bailey report

Minister: In an ideal world the Bailey swing-fall report would be published

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Josepha Madigan and Maria Bailey. Picture: Paul Sherwood
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is refusing to ask those involved in the internal Fine Gael inquiry into Maria Bailey’s swing fall to waive confidentiality so the report can be published.

Senior counsel David Kennedy, who carried out the probe, gave a written undertaking to those involved that his findings would not be published. Despite opposition leaders calling for the release the report, Mr Varadkar said he would not seek to do so by requesting Mr Kennedy to ask those who were involved in his inquiry to waive confidentiality.

“No, this is an internal investigation, it’s a party matter. When David Kennedy carried out this inquiry, which is not a public inquiry, he asked people to cooperate on the basis that it would remain confidentiality and he gave that assurance in writing and I don’t think it would be right to breach that confidence after the fact,” Mr Varadkar said, speaking at a press conference to announce Ireland would host the 2026 Ryder Cup.

Mr Varadkar also defended Culture Minister Josepha Madigan’s refusal to comment on what advice she gave to Ms Bailey before the Fine Gael TD's personal injuries claim after she fell from a swing in The Dean Hotel in July 2015.

Ms Madigan refused to answer questions from on her way into the same cabinet meeting.

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Josepha Madigan and Maria Bailey. Picture: Paul Sherwood

Mr Varadkar said: “Minister Madigan is bound by solicitor-client confidentiality just as I would be bound by doctor-patient confidentiality for any advice I gave to anyone seven or eight years ago before I was a minister. So she can’t speak on this matter because of that. You can only speak on these matters if client privilege is waived.

"What I can say, and it’s there in the statement yesterday is that the advice that she gave was initial advice up to the point of processing the personal injuries assessment board application, the hotel did not cooperate with that and she had no further involvement after that it was passed onto another solicitor in the firm.

He said he had not asked Ms Bailey if she would waive her client privilege. “I haven’t, no. I haven’t asked anyone to waive their right to confidentiality at all, ever,” he said.

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Finian McGrath. Picture: Frank McGrath

Earlier, Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath has said "in an ideal world" the internal Fine Gael report into the Maria Bailey swing-fall controversy would be published.

Mr McGrath said he accepted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's sacking of Ms Bailey as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee and believes the matter has been dealt with in a comprehensive, fair and "humanitarian" way.

But with ongoing questions around the role of Culture Minister Josepha Madigan and what advice she gave to Ms Bailey before she took a court case, Mr McGrath said "in an ideal world" the report carried out by senior counsel David Kennedy would be published

"Well in an ideal world, yes, but I mean that's the Taoiseach's call, I am not going to tell the Taoiseach what to do in relation to that particular issue," Mr McGrath said when asked whether the report should be published on his way into a special cabinet meeting in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

He described the report as "excellent" before admitting he hadn't read it and saying he "had a kind of preliminary kind of synopsis of it".

Mr McGrath said he did not believe Ms Madigan had any questions to answer about her role in advising Ms Bailey.

"It's an internal matter for their party and I think they've dealt with it in a comprehensive and fair way. They've dealt with it in a humanitarian way,” Mr McGrath added.

"We all know Maria Bailey lost her dad in recent weeks and I think that's the way to deal with it. She's suffered the consequences, she accepts totally that she did wrong, I accept that I totally disagree with what she did, she has accepted responsibility and I think it's time to move on.

"I am happy with the way the Taoiseach dealt with it, he dealt with it in a comprehensive way. He dealt with it in a very fair way and above all he dealt with it in a humanitarian way.”

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, who is also an independent TD in government, also declined to comment on whether the report should be published, saying it was a matter for Fine Gael.

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