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Calls for Josepha Madigan to give fuller account of her part in ‘swing-gate’

Minister Bruton says Madigan has no further questions to answer in relation to case.

Micheál Martin has called on Minister Madigan to give a fuller account of her role in swing-gate.
Micheál Martin has called on Minister Madigan to give a fuller account of her role in swing-gate.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Jul 24th 2019, 3:34 PM

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER RICHARD Bruton has dismissed calls for Arts Minister Josepha Madigan to issue a statement clarifying her role in ‘swing-gate’.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday that Bailey had “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.

Confirming the demotion, Varadkar 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, Bailey said that she regrets taking the case and that she “made no attempt to mislead”. 

Fianna Fáill leader Micheál Martin has called on Madigan to clarify her role in what has become known as “swing-gate” involving Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. 

Martin has called for greater transparency around Minister Madigan’s role in the affair. 

“I think there has been a fair degree of murkiness about that. The degree of Josepha Madigan’s involvement should be fully transparent and should be clarified,” he said. 

However, speaking to reporters at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal today, Bruton said he did not think Madigan needed to answer further questions on the issue.

When asked should Madigan issue a statement, he said:

No. I think Leo Varadkar has issued a very comprehensive statement following an investigation that he had carried out. I think he has dealt with Josepha Madigan’s role in this. It’s there clearly stated. He recognises that she doesn’t have further questions to answer. He recognises that our colleague Maria Bailey made mistakes and there are consequences for those mistakes. I’ve nothing to add to that.

When asked to explain the difference between an exaggerated claim and a fraudulent claim, the minister said he had not read the internal report carried out into the matter.

“I haven’t read the report so I haven’t been privy to the evidence involved. But this is an issue of internal discipline within Fine Gael. We have investigated. The Taoiseach has taken the approach steps and penalised the individual involved. I think we are now moving on. That issue has been deal with in the way that is proper, in my view.”

In the Taoiseach’s statement yesterday, he said 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.

“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,” Varadkar stated yesterday.

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He said Bailey signed an affidavit (linked to a personal injuries summons) that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running. However, the internal party 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.

However, Martin has called for a fuller account from the minister and the part she played in advising Bailey.

“I think the minister needs to make a full comprehensive statement in relation to that. At the moment we’re being told that the report says she hadn’t an involvement but then we’re told she was involved in the initial documentation. What does that mean? Did she advise Maria Bailey to take the case? She needs to answer the basic question: did she or did she not advise in the early stages Maria Bailey to take the case,” he said. 

90411148_90411148 Micheál Martin states there is an inconsistency in Leo Varadkar's attempts to deal with swing-gate. Source: Leah Farrell

When asked if Bailey’s demotion sent out a strong enough message, Martin said there is an inconsistency in what the Taoiseach has been saying in relation to the matter. 

“If he saying nothing fraudulent, clearly something went wrong if she is being demoted.

“There is no sense among the general public that her action jarred with the Government’s policy in curbing insurance costs. As far as the public is concerned there has been no real curbing of insurance costs,” he said. 

He added: 

Fine Gael has been very lax in terms of dealing with the insurance issue. Costs have soared. The most recent example of that is the leisure industry which is now going through a crisis in terms of its inability to get insurance cover. I think the Government has failed dramatically on insurance.
The Maria Bailey case highlighted and illustrated that to a large extent, and the degree of discontent in terms of how people out there are dealing with the realities of high levels of insurance costs and contrasting that with politicians pursuing claims of this nature.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also believes that further questions must be asked of Minister Madigan.

“I think she has questions to answer,” he said, adding;

It’s interesting that any time I previously asked previously, we were told ‘oh no, Minister Madigan wasn’t anywhere near this, she never gave any advice’. Now we find out that she did actually. She gave the first key piece of advice which was ‘yes, you’ve a case, go for it’. I think that’s a real question of her judgement.

Ryan said questions must also be asked of the legal industry and the role they are playing in terms of insurance costs.

“Communities can’t do anything now because they can’t get insurance. Part of the problem is the legal industry. They have to look at themselves and say ‘are we benefiting from this and keeping the whole thing going’. I think it’s not just that case itself raised certain issues around the evidence. It is the advice that is given.”

When asked what action he would take if one of his TDs took a case like this, the Fianna Fáil leader said he was not “going to deal in hypotheticals”. 

“I’ll deal with the facts in front of me. I would have no truck and no time for any fraudulent claims or claims that are not necessary.

“There can be legitimate claims and each case can be different. When we were young growing up we had many accidents. We broke hands and things like that and the last things on our minds or our parents’ minds was that we would go to court.

When pushed on whether the Taoiseach should he have taken the whip off Bailey, Martin said Bailey had been through a difficult personal time, with her father only passing away a couple of weeks ago.

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