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Taoiseach refutes claim by Maria Bailey that no review of election ticket occurred before her deselection

Fine Gael members see the letter as a clear signal Bailey intends to fight the decision to deselect her.

Image: Niall Carson

Updated Nov 20th 2019, 9:41 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has dismissed a suggestion by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey that he no review was carried out of the party’s general election ticket in Dun Laoghaire before her removal from it.

In a letter to members in the south Dublin area, Bailey said she wanted the record corrected and indicated that she wanted it clarified as to who was the basis for her removal from the ticket -  her constituency members or the Taoiseach. 

The Dun Laoghaire TD has been under scrutiny since her compensation case for falling off a swing at the Dean Hotel in Dublin in 2015 came to light earlier this year.

Bailey was demoted following an internal review which found that she “overstated” the extent of her injuries.

In an RTÉ radio interview in May, she said the swing had not been properly supervised at the time of her fall.

Bailey has since withdrawn proceedings she filed against the Dean Hotel and was demoted by being removed as chairwoman of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

Fight back 

In a lengthy letter dated on Monday, which Fine Gael members are taking as a clear sign that Bailey will fight the decision to deselect her, Bailey sets out that when she attended the Fine Gael Executive Council meeting last Thursday she was told that the council was considering a proposal from the Taoiseach to delete her from the ticket. 

“Up to that point, I had understood that the basis of my deselection was the members motion. This is what I was told by Paschal Donohoe (Fine Gael’s director of organisation for elections) when I met with him and (Fine Gael General Secretary) Tom Curran on the evening before the meeting of the Executive Council,” she states in the letter.

“At the outset of that meeting I was told by Paschal Donohoe, that the intention of the party was to review the ticket and that if I decided that I did not want to stand down from the ticket, the ‘party’ would be making a recommendation to the Executive Council that the ticket be reviewed and I be removed from the ticket on the grounds of the motion that was passed by the ‘Constituency Executive’.

“Paschal also told us at that meeting that all of ‘our’ approach was driven by the Constituency motion passed “asking and requiring” that the Executive Council review the ticket and asking the Executive Council if changes needed to be made,” she added. 

Questioning procedure

Bailey goes on to say that she raised “serious issues” regarding the procedures of the constituency meeting held on Halloween night in the Royal Marine Hotel, where Fine Gael members voted to restructure the constituency ticket, removing her as a candidate in the next general election.

She added that Donohoe and Curran explained to her that what normally happens is that the Taoiseach under the party leaders powers in the Constitution can add, delete, or vary a candidate, however she says she was told no such proposal from the Taoiseach was before the council.

“Paschal Donohoe told me that the proposal to deselect had not been finalised but that it was the party leader’s intention to deselect me on the grounds of the process that he had described to date i.e. the party Leaders powers,” she states.

On the evening of the Executive Council’s meeting, Bailey outlines that she received a copy of the letter from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the Chair of the Executive Council stating that as party leader and under the Fine Gael Constitution and rules, he was proposing that the Executive Council delete Bailey as a candidate for the next general election in the constituency of Dun Laoghaire.

The Taoiseach’s proposal, according to Bailey, stated: “I make this proposal because in my judgement, the best interests of the party are served by deleting Maria Bailey TD as a candidate for the next General Election”.

‘No reason’

“There were no reasons given for this judgement,” Bailey says in her letter.

“At no time before I attended the Executive Council was I told by either Paschal Donohoe or Tom Curran that the basis of my deselection had been changed from the Constituency motion to solely that of the Taoiseach’s proposal.

“I am not aware whether the review requested by the Constituency was in fact carried out by the Executive Council. If such a review was conducted, I was not advised of any conclusions or the reasons for any such conclusions. I was not afforded any opportunity to address the Executive Council on the conclusions of any such review by them,” she states. 

In the letter she concludes that no review was carried out by the Executive.

Speaking to reporters in Croatia this evening, Varadkar said that the review into Fine Gael’s election strategy had been carried out by the party’s director of organisation, Paschal Donohoe, and by its general secretary Tom Curran.

“It involved reviewing what our best chance of holding two seats in Dún Laoghaire was, and Obviously we had polling data as well that was done a few weeks ago, which would confirm the decision that we made,” he said, when pressed on what the review involved.

“Our constitution is very clear. Our members voting at convention decide who our candidates are. And our Executive Council has the power to delete or add candidates based on my recommendation.”

A number of Fine Gael members expressed their astonishment at Bailey’s letter, stating that the Dun Laoghaire TD does not seem to accept that the writing is on the wall in terms of her future in the party. 

The letter is being seen as a clear signal that Bailey intends to fight the party’s decision to deselect her.

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