Maria Bailey removed as committee chair over compensation claim

Varadkar says he will not remove whip from Fine Gael TD, conscious of ‘devastating effect’ of saga

 Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has removed Maria Bailey as chairwoman of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing as a result of her controversial personal injuries claim against a Dublin hotel.

Mr Varadkar on Tuesday announced Ms Bailey would lose the committee chair but will retain the party whip.

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Bailey made numerous errors of judgement in her handling of this matter from the outset, during and even after she’d withdrawn the case,” he said.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

“For these reasons, I am demoting her and removing her as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing.

“I hope this will send a clear message to other public representatives about taking such cases in future.

“In not going further by removing the whip from Deputy Bailey, I do so conscious of the devastating effect this saga has had on Deputy Bailey and her family in particular. She has endured considerable negative publicity, public criticism and is now personally liable for significant legal and medical costs.”

In a statement, Ms Bailey added that she accepted the Taoiseach’s decision.

“I initiated legal proceedings following an incident in 2015 in which I suffered painful injuries,” she said. “I acted on legal advice throughout the process, but ultimately decided to withdraw the proceedings in an attempt to end the extraordinary media and political pressure that arose from the publication of some details of the case. I began the process leading to the taking of this case before I was a TD, in relation to an incident that took place over four years ago. I regret very much that I took the case.

“I note that the report by David Kennedy SC has found that this was not a fraudulent claim, and that it would be unlikely that a court would conclude that there was any attempt to mislead on my part. I made no attempt to mislead.

“I recognise and regret the difficulties this issue caused for the Taoiseach and my colleagues during the recent elections. I want to express sincere thanks to members of my family, friends and colleagues who have been personally supportive of me during this recent period.”

The move comes on foot of an internal party report into the Dun Laoghaire TD’s claim against The Dean hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street for falling off a swing.

Mr Kennedy’s investigation is understood to have found her claim overstated the impact of the injuries she suffered as a result of falling from a swing. Mr Varadkar has said Mr Kennedy’s report will not be published.

Ms Bailey has already been chosen as a Fine Gael candidate at the next general election.