FG grassroots call for publication of report into Bailey compensation claim

Taoiseach has said making public internal party report not usual

Fine Gael asked  David Kennedy SC to ‘establish all the facts’ around Maria Bailey TD’s claim over swing incident. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fine Gael asked David Kennedy SC to ‘establish all the facts’ around Maria Bailey TD’s claim over swing incident. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Grassroots members of Fine Gael are demanding that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar publish a report into the Maria Bailey compensation claims controversy.

Mr Varadkar said last Friday it is not the practice for a political party to publish internal documents and that he did not know if there would be legal issues in doing so.

Fine Gael asked senior counsel David Kennedy to “establish all the facts” around Ms Bailey’s now withdrawn action against the Dean Hotel in Dublin, where she alleged she had suffered injuries after falling from a swing in the hotel bar in July 2015. She later said she had a bottle of beer in her hand while she was on the swing and was reaching for a friend’s bottle of wine.

There are growing calls within the party for Mr Varadkar to make the finalised report available with a number of councillors and grassroots members publicly lending their support to this view.

Blaine Gaffney, who lost out on a seat in Sligo in the local elections, said he was being asked on doorsteps and through social media what his position was on the controversy and on rising insurance costs.

“It did not help. If we are looking at marginal seat losses, I lost out by a swing of 33 votes and it would make you think. It is an issue, and it is on the lips of everyone in Leinster House. Everyone is wondering how Leo is going to deal with it, it is a test for him. We don’t know what is going to come out of the report. I would like to see it.”

Local elections

Cllr Fergal Browne from Carlow agreed that the issue impacted on Fine Gael’s performance in the local elections and also called for the report to be published. “It certainly didn’t help us and would have cost the party votes in my view.”

He said was unhappy with the timing of when Ms Bailey withdrew her claim, just weeks before the election.

Cllr Fintan Brett from Kildare said he also wants to see the senior counsel’s findings but does not believe it will happen. While it was hard to know if the controversy had an effect, it was raised during canvassing on the doorsteps “a few times,” he said. It is something we could have done without.”

Cllr Sylvester Bourke from Wicklow said the report should be published if it helps generating reform in the insurance sector. He said he was involved in a recent incident when driving involving another car and the other driver claimed it was his fault and made a claim for a soft tissue injury months after the event.

“I could have made a claim but I did not feel it was right. We have solicitors out there touting for this type of business,” he said. “This issue is screaming at us, when our awards for soft tissue injuries are four times greater than the UK.”

Mr Varadkar said he has yet to receive the report.

“It’s too early to say whether there will be any legal issues in publishing it having not received it and having not seen it,” he said on Friday.

“What I say on this, and I’ve said it before, is it’s never been the practice for a political party carrying out an internal investigation – it’s not a public inquiry, not funded by public money, it’s an internal investigation being carried out by the party.”