Fine Gael national executive to consider Maria Bailey’s future
‘Members are always the ones who choose the ticket,’ Minister says of local party motion
Maria Bailey: ‘Talked about her livelihood’ at meeting of local party. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The Fine Gael national executive is due to consider a motion that could see Maria Bailey removed from the constituency ticket in Dún Laoghaire.
Local Fine Gael members voted on Thursday night for a motion asking the party hierarchy to urgently review the constituency’s general election ticket, putting pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to strip Ms Bailey of the party candidacy.
Sources on the executive said they expected the Taoiseach to make a recommendation on how to proceed based on the motion, and that the nature of this recommendation is unlikely to be known until the executive’s meeting on November 12th.
On Friday, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the views of the members must be listened to.
“The members are always the ones that choose the ticket, I know people get added and stuff like that thereafter when we have gaps in the ticket, but the members’ views have to be listened to and that’s the job of the national executive.”
At the meeting on Thursday evening, the majority of members present voted in favour of recommending a review of the ticket.
One party member who was present said Ms Bailey defended herself against a contribution from the floor where it was stated the Opposition were using to so-called “swing-gate” controversy to deflect from recent criticisms of Fianna Fáil TDs caught up in the irregular voting controversy.
Ms Bailey has been in the spotlight following the negative publicity surrounding her decision to pursue, and later withdraw, a personal injuries claim over a fall from a swing in Dublin’s Dean Hotel.
“She did respond and said that there was a difference in relation to ‘vote-gate’,” the party member said. “She said she had been hurt, she had fallen, but it was a personal matter which happened before she was even a TD, whereas [the Fianna Fáil TDs] did what they did in their role as TDs.
“She talked for less than 10 minutes, and spoke a lot about how hard it has been and the level of scrutiny she has received, the commentary online and in the media and how vile some of it has been. Said she made a mistake.
“There was another contribution from a member who said that everybody is entitled to mistakes. Maria talked about her livelihood. There was a suggestion it had been something of a witch-hunt and that she had suffered a lot.”
Another member of the party is understood to have suggested it would not only be the local branch of the party that would suffer if she remained on the ticket but the national standing of the party would suffer too.
Thursday’s motion is understood to have passed by around 20 votes. “She was surprised when it passed. She had brought the numbers, so she was surprised it did not go her way,” said one person present.
It is understood that the party’s national executive will rely on a recommendation from the Taoiseach about what action to take next. “We probably won’t know what the decision is until we are in that room on the day itself in a week and a half.”
Potential replacements for Ms Bailey on the party slate for the four-seat constituency include councillors Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Lorraine Hall. Ms Bailey had already been selected to stand for the party in the constituency in the next general election alongside Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Cllr Barry Ward.
Following the controversy over the personal injuries claim, Ms Bailey was removed from her position as chairwoman of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, a post that is worth €9,500 a year, by the Taoiseach in July. Mr Varadkar took the action following an internal party report into the matter. The report found Ms Bailey’s affidavit “overstated the impact of her injuries”.
Ms Bailey ran a 10km run three weeks after the incident. In July the Taoiseach said he could not reconcile “inconsistencies” in Ms Bailey’s “accounts to me and the media”.