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Maria Bailey inquiry: Fine Gael TD will not be suspended from party but loses Oireachtas chair role

Bailey’s role as chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing has been removed by the Taoiseach.

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Maria Bailey TD “made numerous errors of judgement in her handling” of her swing fall case and that as a result she is being removed as chairperson of an Oireachtas committee.

Varadkar confirmed the demotion this afternoon but said that Bailey was not being suspended from Fine Gael.

The sanction comes following an internal party review carried out by David Kennedy SC which has found that she “overstated” the impact of injuries she suffered following a fall at the Dean Hotel in Dublin.

The Dún Laoghaire TD withdrew legal proceedings she had filed against the hotel after claiming she had been injured when she fell from a swing at the premises.

Despite dropping her lawsuit, Bailey was strongly critical of the media for its coverage of the case, saying it acted as “judge, jury and executioner” during its reporting.

In statement issued today, Bailey said that she regrets taking the case and that she “made no attempt to mislead”.

Court documents lodged as part of the case stated that Bailey could not run for three months after the fall but the TD ran a 10km race three weeks after the incident.

Varadkar had been under pressure to publish details of the review and today released a statement about what was contained within it.

The Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader said:

The inquiry confirms the following:Deputy Bailey was injured following a fall from a swing in a hotel in 2015. She sustained painful injuries and incurred significant medical bills as a result.

The accident happened and the injuries were real and were confirmed by medical reports. The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim.

Minister Madigan (then a backbench TD) gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted Deputy Bailey with her Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application. This was a preliminary step which often results in amicable resolution but the hotel did not engage with the PIAB. Minister Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings. These were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on Deputy Bailey’s instructions.

She was advised that she had a ‘statable’ case. However, there were concerns that a finding of contributory negligence against her was likely and this was communicated to her on several occasions.

Deputy Bailey signed an affidavit (linked to a personal injuries summons) that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running. The inquiry concludes that it is unlikely that a court would conclude that she deliberately sought to mislead as other legal documents talk about her running being restricted rather than not being able to run at all.

There have been inconsistencies in Deputy Bailey’s account of events to me and the media that I cannot reconcile.

It is clear to me, that Deputy Bailey made numerous errors of judgement in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she’d withdrawn the case. And her approach jars with that of a Government taking action to reduce personal injury payments, claims and insurance costs to people and businesses.

For these reasons, I am demoting her and removing her as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing.

I hope this will send a clear message to other public representatives about taking such cases in future.

In not going further by removing the whip from Deputy Bailey, I do so conscious of the devastating effect this saga has had on Deputy Bailey and her family in particular. She has endured considerable negative publicity, public criticism and is now personally liable for significant legal and medical costs.

It is not normal practice for political parties to publish internal investigations. I considered making an exception in this case. In my meeting with David Kennedy SC he advised me that as this was not a public or statutory investigation, he has no powers of compellability and therefore sought and received the co-operation of the individuals and parties involved on the basis of confidentiality. It would be wrong of me to breach this confidence.

In a statement issued by Fine Gael on behalf the Dún Laoghaire TD and following Varadkar’s statement, Bailey said she accepted the decision to remove her as chair of the committee.

“I initiated legal proceedings following an incident in 2015 in which I suffered painful injuries. I acted on legal advice throughout the process, but ultimately decided to withdraw the proceedings in an attempt to end the extraordinary media and political pressure that arose from the publication of some details of the case,” she said.

“I began the process leading to the taking of this case before I was a TD, in relation to an incident that took place over four years ago. I regret very much that I took the case.”

I note that the report by David Kennedy SC has found that this was not a fraudulent claim, and that it would be unlikely that a court would conclude that there was any attempt to mislead on my part. I made no attempt to mislead.

“I recognise and regret the difficulties this issue caused for the Taoiseach and my colleagues during the recent elections. I want to express sincere thanks to members of my family, friends and colleagues who have been personally supportive of me during this recent period.”

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Rónán Duffy

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