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Maria Bailey's spot on Fine Gael election ticket in jeopardy after crunch constituency meeting

A large number of the party’s members took the secret ballot in a Dun Laoghaire hotel this evening.

Since the swing-gate controversy, a number of TDs have stated that they do not believe Bailey should run in the next general election.
Since the swing-gate controversy, a number of TDs have stated that they do not believe Bailey should run in the next general election.
Image: Niall Carson

Updated Oct 31st 2019, 9:40 PM

THE DUN LAOGHAIRE branch of Fine Gael has this evening passed a motion asking the party’s HQ to review its election ticket.

A large number of the party’s members took the secret ballot in a Dun Laoghaire hotel this evening.

Maria Bailey had hoped that the motion would fall and that her place on the ticket in the next general election would be safe. However, this evening’s vote now means that her spot in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown constituency is now under threat.

Earlier today, Cabinet ministers declined to declare confidence in Maria ahead of a tonight’s crucial meeting about her future. 

The Dun Laoghaire constituency members of the party met in the Royal Marine Hotel this evening to debate a motion seeking to change the party’s general election candidates in the area.

Controversy has surrounded Bailey since she withdrew legal proceedings she had filed against the Dean Hotel after claiming she had been injured when she fell from a swing at the premises.

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

An internal party review led to sanctions by the Taoiseach, who removed her as the head of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

Speaking to reporters at the progress report for the government’s Climate Action Plan today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he has “full confidence in any candidate who’s selected and ratified by our party”. 

However, he said Fine Gael is a democratic party, pointing out that it is the members of the constituency who will make that decision. 

While tonight’s decision is not binding, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (who is the party’s director of elections) has said today that Fine Gael will consider removing Bailey as a candidate in the next general election if her Dun Laoghaire constituency members seek the changes tonight.

Health Minister Simon Harris told reporters today that “it would be extraordinarily unhelpful and rude” for him to make any comment about confidence in Bailey ahead of tonight’s crunch meeting. 

“I wouldn’t appreciate somebody interfering in a constituency meeting tonight,” he added. 

Arts Minister Josepha Madigan added: 

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on Maria Bailey’s suitability as a GE candidate or otherwise.”

Madigan (who was then a backbench TD and not a minister) gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted Bailey with her Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application.

The Taoiseach has previously clarified that Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings, which were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on  Bailey’s instructions.

Bailey was demoted, but not suspended from the party following an internal party review, which 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.

Bailey took to the airwaves to speak about the case on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme in May, in what her own party colleagues have described as a “car-crash interview”. 

Despite later 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.

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Bailey has stated that she regrets taking the case and that she “made no attempt to mislead”.

Leo Varadkar demoted Bailey and removed her as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee. 

Since the controversy, a number of TDs have stated that they do not believe Bailey should run in the next general election, for fear that it could damage the party. 

- With reporting from Adam Daly and Garreth MacNamee 

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