Fianna Fáil’s candidate for the Dublin Bay South byelection has taken legal action over a skiing fall, claiming she was hurt when her guide did not watch her go down the slopes.
It was after the first run down the Andorran slopes at Arinsal on a 2015 ski tour that Deirdre Conroy says she expressed concerns to the group's instructor about the icy conditions.
There was very little snow on slopes, which were mostly brown, she claims, with a thin layer of man-made snow. When she raised her concerns about the conditions, she says the ski instructor told her , “you haven’t seen ice yet”.
The alleged exchanges have now come to light in High Court filings, following an accident shortly afterwards that left her with a fractured hip, one that needed replacement later.
Arinsal is a pretty village high in the mountains of northwest Andorra, the world's 16th smallest country bordered by France to the north and by Spain to the south.
Together with other resorts, it forms part of Vallnord Pal-Arinsal ski district “offers a fantastic variety of runs, as well as some great off-piste areas if you’re in need of something a bit more challenging”, according to local publicity.
Conroy, a member of Dublin City Council who is now running for Fianna Fáil in the Dublin Bay South byelection, says she sought a break an hour into the first ski session, and did so again within another hour, but skiing continued.
Ms Conroy, then a travel writer for the Irish Independent, was one of six journalists on the January 2015 trip, which was paid for by ski-tour operators Crystal Holidays.
Making a left turn during a run down the slopes Ms Conroy’s right leg gave way, causing her to fall and fracture her hip. Doctors in Andorra, a tiny country located between France and Spain, placed a screw into her hip and femur.
Later, she had to have a full left hip replacement in the Beacon Hospital in July 2015. She lodged a personal injuries claim against Crystal Holidays and TUI UK in June 2016.
Ms Conroy claims the holiday organisers were negligent; as there was very little snow on the slopes, the group’s ski instructor failed to properly monitor her, and refused her request to take a break.
Her statement of claim, lodged in June 2016 and seen by The Irish Times, alleges the injury left her with with mobility issues , and that she “has not been able to continue” with many of the things she did before, such as sailing and walking.
The injury had caused “significant interference with the enjoyment of everyday life”, leaving her with “ongoing and continuing pain”, a limp and difficulty sleeping.
Photographs posted by Ms Conroy on Facebook in 2019 show her riding a horse and seated on a motorcycle. She has regularly posted images of herself out swimming and posted about taking up golf last year.
Her claim also states she had to trade her Mercedes car for an automatic model, as she could no longer drive a manual due to the injury.
Ms Conroy was first elected to Dublin City Council in 2019.
Her claim alleges she was a “cautious skier” and the instructor failed to properly monitor her in “dangerous conditions”. She took her first ski lesson in 2007 and had been on several ski trips before the Andorra occasion. Her lawyers described her skill levels as low to intermediate and noted she had not skied for a year prior to the incident.
‘Very serious injury’
Writing in the Irish Independent, Ms Conroy’s review of the trip mentioned the lack of snow on the streets and advised travellers to opt for a nearby museum “if conditions are dangerous”.
She was represented initially by Madigans Solicitors, the former law firm of Fine Gael Minister of State Josepha Madigan, but later switched to Boyle Solicitors. Crystal Holidays is contesting the claim and has denied that negligence led to the injury.
In a statement to The Irish Times, Ms Conroy said she suffered a “very serious injury” during the trip. “There is no doubt but that I would not have needed a total hip replacement had it not been for the fall I sustained whilst skiing.”
She said she believed her injuries were a “result of the negligence of the tour operator”, but the matter had yet to be heard in the High Court.
“In the aftermath of the accident I was unable to return to many pre-accident activities and the injuries did cause very significant interference with my enjoyment of everyday life. I have never suggested in the proceedings that I was permanently debilitated,” she said.
The photograph of her on a horse in late 2019 “was the first time I was back on a horse since my accident” and it did not contradict her personal injuries claim, she said.
Ms Conroy said she stood by her claim’s assessment of the effects of her injury, which had a “devastating impact on my ability to enjoy life and partake in activities”.