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'Judgment day' for political future of Swing-gate TD Bailey

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Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The political future of Swing-gate TD Maria Bailey will be decided by secret ballot tonight.

In an unusual move, members of Fine Gael's Dun Laoghaire branch will not have to openly declare their position on the constituency's election ticket.

However, sources told the Herald they expect "sparks to fly" when upwards of 100 people gather to discuss how best to secure two seats at the next election.

They will vote on a motion calling on Fine Gael's hierarchy to "urgently review" the ticket and "make any changes nec- essary in order to improve our prospects in the forthcoming general election".

While the motion makes no direct reference to Ms Bailey, it is openly interpreted as judgment day for the embarrassment inflicted on the party as a result of her compensation claim for a fall from a swing.

Junior education minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor and councillor Barry Ward have already been selected to represent Fine Gael alongside Ms Bailey.

It is understood only 15 minutes have been set aside for members to air their views, but the time is likely to be extended on the demand of attendees.

Determination

Party members expect Ms Bailey and a number of her supporters to defend her position.

She has already expressed a determination to contest the election.

Afterwards, delegates - who must be members of the local branch - will be given a piece of paper and asked to privately cast their vote.

"Normally, any votes would be taken by a show of hands, so it's extremely unusual to have a secret ballot," one source said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday he would review the outcome of any local discussion.

A team led by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is in charge of deciding the party's election strategy, but given the sensitivity of this case, Mr Varadkar will be consulted.

Newly-elected councillor Jennifer Carroll MacNeill is tipped as a possible replacement for Ms Bailey. The party could also decide to simply drop the first-time TD and adopt a two-candidate approach.

"We're a party of democracy. Members select our candidates. We have the power to add and subtract, but generally it's members who select the candidates," Mr Varadkar said.

Ms Bailey took a case against The Dean Hotel, claiming it was liable for a fall she suffered in July 2015. Court papers cited a number of injuries and claimed she was unable to run "at all" for three months after the incident.

However, it emerged she ran a 10km race within three weeks of the fall.


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