Friday 19 July 2019

Varadkar defends hunt for source of Bailey 'leaks' as report to stay secret

  

Maria Bailey TD. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Maria Bailey TD. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the right of a barrister acting on his behalf to ask journalists for their sources.

A Fine Gael investigation into Maria Bailey's personal injuries claim is trying to establish how details of her case found their way into the public domain. Correspondence to the Irish Independent from a senior counsel requested this newspaper outline how information about her fall from a swing and alleged injuries was obtained.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) described the direction of the internal Fine Gael probe as "entirely inappropriate". Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the NUJ, noted the right of journalists to protect confidential sources has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, Mr Varadkar defended his party's source-hunting, saying he asked senior counsel David Kennedy to carry out a "through investigation".

The Taoiseach said he had not directly ordered Mr Kennedy to find a "leaker" but admitted he is attempting to do so on his behalf.

"I think what he is doing is a thorough investigation and he was asked to assess all the facts, and find out all the facts, and that's the approach he's taking," Mr Varadkar said.

Asked whether Fine Gael will publish the final report when it is completed in the next week or so, the Taoiseach said he would not.

There has been huge public interest in the case since it was revealed Ms Bailey ran a 10km race just three weeks after the fall at The Dean Hotel in July 2015, despite claims in court papers that she was unable to run "at all" for three months.

The claim also alleged the hotel was negligent because the swing was unsupervised.

A string of Fine Gael ministers said the controversy hurt their local election campaign.

But Mr Varadkar said: "It is an internal party inquiry, and it's not the norm of any party to publish the results of their internal party inquiries."

The NUJ has criticised attempts to expose journalistic sources.

Mr Dooley said: "I suspect An Taoiseach and his advisers may regard the request as legitimate because it was just that - a polite note seeking assistance rather than a court order, but the principle is just the same: you don't ask a journalist or the media to breach their professional code of conduct or waive their rights for political expediency."

He noted that if Ms Bailey has an issue with the reporting, she can make a case to the Press Council. She has alleged information was leaked in a "methodical" and "well-orchestrated" way, "pre-planned to cause maximum damage".

It is understood Mr Kennedy's review will be finalised within days.

Irish Independent

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