Belfast Telegraph

Fine Gael’s Bailey condemns ‘trial by media’ over compensation case

Maria Bailey said she suffered ‘unbelievable abuse’.

Maria Bailey represents Fine Gael in south Dublin (PA)
Maria Bailey represents Fine Gael in south Dublin (PA)

An Irish politician has hit out at the media after it was revealed that she was seeking damages from a hotel.

Maria Bailey, a politician representing a south Dublin constituency, had taken the claim against an upmarket hotel after she fell from a swing.

Ms Bailey claimed she took the action in order to recoup medical expenses after she injured her back falling from the swing located in the rooftop cocktail bar Sophie’s, in the Dean Hotel.

The hotel denied liability, stating that Ms Bailey was holding items in both hands when she fell.

Irish newspaper the Irish Independent published the story last week, and the controversy ran for six days before Ms Bailey dropped the case.

Court documents described Ms Bailey as a “keen runner prior to the accident but could not run at all for three months post-accident and has had to reduce her activities significantly since”.

However, the paper later revealed that she had completed a 10km race three weeks after the incident.

Due to the unbelievable abuse, I had to lock myself away for three days last week and I couldn't go home

Speaking on Monday on RTE Radio One’s Sean O’Rourke radio show, Ms Bailey hit out at journalists and said that she had undergone a trial by media.

“Due to the unbelievable abuse, I had to lock myself away for three days last week and I couldn’t go home,” she said.

“That’s an invasion of my privacy and humanity has been crossed.

“As a state we need to decide who is our judicial system, is it the media? Or is it the courts? The media were judge, jury, and executioner in a leaked document.”

Ms Bailey said her family has endured a “distressing, intrusive and abusive week” as a result of documents leaked last Sunday but would not go into detail about the incident, saying “it was for a judge to adjudicate on”.

“The reason it took such great traction is I am the subject of click-bait. I handed them a fantastic headline.”

She confirmed she had also attended a music festival after the incident.

“I was hurt, I have medical expenses, no one questions that,” she said.

“I never said I locked myself in a monastery – this is a joke.”

Ms Bailey confirmed that she was approached for reply when the story first appeared, but refused to comment on the case as it was still going through the courts.

Ms Bailey said she could not drop her children at school, has had to come off social media and that journalists were waiting outside her house.

She also hit out at fellow politicians Michael McDowell and opposition leader Micheal Martin for commenting on the case, while it was still before the courts, saying “they should know better”.

The incident has caused consternation for the Irish Government, which is currently investigating how to tackle Ireland’s “compensation culture” which is negatively affecting businesses as insurance premiums continue to rise.

Some of Ms Bailey’s Fine Gael colleagues have admitted the story affected the party’s chances at the polls in the local elections at the weekend.

Party MEP Mairead McGuinness said on Sunday that the story “did impact” on Fine Gael’s campaign, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted the case caused “reputational damage”.

Asked whether he has confidence in Maria Bailey, Mr Varadkar said: “I do of course, she is somebody who is a TD who was elected by her constituents.

“But obviously I will need to meet her next week and discuss with her the recent controversy.

“I haven’t had the chance to do that yet so I would like to hear her side of the story.”

Ms Bailey said she had no reservations about meeting with Mr Varadkar to discuss the incident.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Ms Bailey’s case was an issue on the doorsteps in the run-up to the elections, adding: “I accept that the optics have not been good.”

“I have to say it was an issue that was raised on the doorsteps. I wouldn’t like to overegg it or overplay it, but I know that it had been mentioned,” Mr Flangan said as he arrived at the Ireland South European election count centre in Co Cork.

He added that insurance reform was a big issue. Asked what Mr Varadkar should say to Ms Bailey, Mr Flanagan said: “I am not the Taoiseach and I am not going to add or detract from any of the speculation that’s out there.”

When asked whether he would have advised her to take the action, he said: “I wouldn’t have advised her in these circumstances, as Minister for Justice it wouldn’t have been part of my remit.

“I accept that the optics have not been good, it was an issue that was raised on the doorsteps but I am very keen to ensure now that we proceed the legislative programme that will result in a reformed insurance framework.”

Health Minister Simon Harris described the radio interview as “unfortunate”.

Speaking at the European election count centre in Dublin, Mr Harris said: “I think it’s appropriate that the Taoiseach meets with Deputy Bailey and I think it’s regrettable that didn’t happen in advance of an interview.

“I think that it would have important that he was afforded that opportunity to have that meeting with Maria.

“She obviously made a decision to go on radio this morning.

“My understanding is that was a decision she made of her own volition, as is her right.

“I think it would have been better had she had the meeting with the Taoiseach first.

“I think it was an unfortunate interview.

“When you withdraw a claim I think that in itself is an acknowledgement of the fact that perhaps that claim shouldn’t have proceeded yet the interview still very much seemed to be in the space of blaming lots of other people.

“This has been a very difficult and stressful time I imagine on a personal level for Maria and for her family.

“I think members up and down the country would have appreciated if it was going to be withdrawn that could have happened before the local and European elections and not after and I think perhaps had that happened the situation could have been more effectively dealt with.”

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