Belfast Telegraph

Fine Gael ‘followed correct procedure’ over Maria Bailey deselection – Varadkar

Mr Varadkar said is is up to Ms Bailey what action she takes after she was deselected on Thursday night.

TD Maria Bailey has been deselected (Niall Carson/PA)
TD Maria Bailey has been deselected (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

Fine Gael followed its procedures to the letter in the deselection controversy around Maria Bailey, the Taoiseach has said.

Party leader Leo Varadkar acknowledged it was a difficult time for the TD, who has been removed from the election ticket in Dun Laoghaire in the wake of her ill-fated compensation claim for falling off a hotel bar swing.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Fine Gael Executive Council on Thursday evening following a recommendation from Mr Varadkar, who is party president.

Ms Bailey said she was disappointed, adding she will take time to reflect.

In her statement on Thursday night, Ms Bailey indicated that she had issues in relation to how the constituency meeting was conducted.

Mr Varadkar said he is “absolutely confident” that Fine Gael followed the correct procedures to remove Ms Bailey as a candidate.

Being deselected is a very painful experience and I don’t think anyone can take any pleasure in it, but my job as party president is to listen to the voice of the members and the members on this occasion asked us to review the ticket and that’s what we did Leo Varadkar

On Friday night, during a press conference in Dublin with incoming EU Council president Charles Michel, Mr Varadkar was asked if he felt the party could withstand any challenge to the decision.

“I am absolutely confident that the party followed its own rules and procedures to the letter and I don’t know if there’s going to be a challenge from deputy Bailey, she hasn’t indicated that that is her intention,” he said. “But that of course would be a decision for her to make.

“But I do want to say that I really appreciate what a difficult time this is for her. Being deselected is a very painful experience and I don’t think anyone can take any pleasure in it, but my job as party president is to listen to the voice of the members and the members on this occasion asked us to review the ticket and that’s what we did and now there is a new strong ticket in Dun Laoghaire and that puts us in a strong position hold two seats out of four there.”

Earlier in the day, speaking at the British-Irish Council summit event in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: “it is never a nice thing to be deselected as a general election candidate and I can understand how she must be feeling”.

He said when he became party leader, he wanted to ensure the views of members were listened to and this meant heeding the views of members in Ms Bailey’s constituency who voted to review the ticket she is on.

“We have a clause in our constitution that allows members to decide issues such as this,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he could not predict if Ms Bailey would take any legal action regarding the decision to deselect her.

“It is very much a matter for Deputy Bailey regarding her further response to what happened last night,” he said.

The executive council added Councillor Jennifer Carroll MacNeill to the ticket in Ms Bailey’s place.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, along with councillor Barry Ward, will join her to contest the Dun Laoghaire constituency for Fine Gael at the next general election.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Ms Bailey said she feels she has been sanctioned twice, adding: “I had hoped to be able to move on and work hard to rebuild my reputation.”

Fine Gael members in Dun Laoghaire carried a motion asking party HQ to urgently review the general election ticket in Ms Bailey’s constituency two weeks ago.

That meeting heard the party had taken a knock in the opinion polls following the controversy regarding Ms Bailey.

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.

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

Court documents lodged as part of Ms Bailey’s case stated that she could not run for three months after her fall but she took part in a 10km race three weeks after the incident.

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

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

PA

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