Sunday 25 August 2019

TD Maria Bailey has suffered badly for her mistake but this isn't over yet


Stock picture
Stock picture
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It has taken two months for Leo Varadkar to verify reports that one of his TDs exaggerated the impact of her injuries when making a bizarre compensation claim.

And at the end of it all he took the course of action that had seemed most likely on the Monday morning after the local elections.

He has removed her as chairman of an Oireachtas committee, a role she very much enjoyed and performed effectively.

His statement outlining the reasons for this demotion confirms much of what we knew about the case and what we suspected about Josepha Madigan.

And yet this is not the end of the story, as many in Fine Gael would like it to be.

The outcome of David Kennedy's investigation raises as many questions as it answers.

For a start, he concludes that this was not a fraudulent case. It's true that Ms Bailey suffered injuries when she fell from a swing in The Dean Hotel in July 2015.

However, by some twist of legal logic, "over-stating" those injuries does not amount to dishonesty.

Instead, in the words of the Taoiseach, it amounts to "inconsistencies".

You'll note the use of the word "over-state" which is far less provocative than "exaggerate", but means the same thing.

The Taoiseach has opted to give Ms Bailey the softest punishment possible.

He has decided she's not fit to chair an Oireachtas committee but remains a suitable election candidate for Fine Gael.

Senior Fine Gael sources said last night that he went 'half-way' in order to be "compassionate".

And let's be honest by about this. Ms Bailey made a terrible error of judgment. For that she has been humiliated, suffered massive online abuse and faces an uphill battle to retain her seat.

There are plenty of politicians who are guilty of far worse indiscretions who have not got a public flogging.

But the interest in this story shows how big the insurance crisis in this country is.

In her first comments since that infamous interview with Sean O'Rourke, Ms Bailey showed some public humility last night.

"I recognise and regret the difficulties this issue caused for the Taoiseach and my colleagues during the recent elections," she said, while adding that she now regrets "very much" taking the case.

Mr Varadkar said he believes his handling of the situation "will send a clear message to other public representatives about taking such cases in future".

Businesses in the leisure sector who are this week scrambling to get insurance cover are unlikely to be too impressed.

The reaction within Fine Gael was mixed last night. One minister reckoned the Taoiseach had "bottled" it but another thought the punishment was "probably fair".

And that brings us back to Josepha Madigan. Does she really believe falling from an unsupervised swing while holding items in both hands justifies a legal action?

Irish Independent

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