Maria Bailey faces axe after Fine Gael meeting urges general election ticket review

Bailey tells party colleagues her career and livelihood are on the line

Maria Bailey: Earlier this month, a motion of no confidence was tabled in Ms Bailey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Maria Bailey: Earlier this month, a motion of no confidence was tabled in Ms Bailey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Fine Gael members in Dún Laoghaire have voted for a motion asking the party hierarchy to urgently review the constituency’s general election ticket, putting pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to strip Maria Bailey of the party candidacy.

Although Ms Bailey was not named in the motion that was put before the meeting of local party members in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire on Thursday evening, it will widely be seen as the local organisation asking for her to be removed from the ticket.

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 Mary Mitchell O’Connor, the Minister of State for Higher Education, and councillor Barry Ward.

The motion called on Fine Gael’s national executive council “to urgently review the ticket for the general election and to make any changes necessary in order to improve our prospects in the forthcoming general election”.

It effectively puts pressure on Mr Varadkar to remove Ms Bailey. Earlier on Thursday, Mr Varadkar and a string of senior Ministers said they would listen to what the members in Dún Laoghaire had to say.

Ms Bailey has been embroiled in controversy over her personal injuries claim against a Dublin hotel. She was stripped of her position as chair 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 Ms Bailey’s claim against the Dean Hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street for falling off a swing. 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”.

“It is clear to me that Deputy Bailey made numerous errors of judgment in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she’d withdrawn the case. And her approach jars with that of a Government taking action to reduce personal injury payments, claims and insurance costs to people and businesses.”

Ms Bailey was said to be at the top table at the meeting on Thursday night when the announcement of the result was made by party officials.

“At the end of her speech she said she was a politician but had made mistakes,” one source said.

About 150 delegates registered to vote at the meeting, out of a total eligible electorate of about 400. The vote was carried out by secret ballot. Sources suggested the motion had been carried by a margin of about 90 votes to 60.

Ms Bailey declined to comment as she left the meeting, saying the issue was an internal party matter.

Electoral record

Joe Lawlor, a party activist who tabled the motion, opened the debate and said Ms Bailey should come off the ticket. Others spoke in favour of her, however, and cited her electoral record, such as winning 10,000 votes at the last general election.

At the outset of the meeting, party officials warned members against speaking to the media.

Edward Kennedy, a local party official, said afterwards: “Members of the Dún Laoghaire constituency executive have had their say. We have no further comments to make. I can’t give you a precise figure at this point in time. I can only say the motion has been carried. We had a robust debate, the members have had their say.”

Sources at the meeting also said Ms Bailey had said her career and livelihood was on the line, and that she respected the views of the members.

She said she wanted to run in the general election with “everything” she has got.

There was also criticism of the vague wording of the motion, with a number of members expressing their support for Ms Mitchell O’Connor and Mr Ward.

“The members made it very clear it was about Maria,” said one figure, who added that it wasn’t “personalised” or “rude”.

Other sources said many of the speakers were in favour of Ms Bailey, and many expect her to fight efforts to deselect her.