Miriam Lord: Fall gal Maria Bailey sees dark forces at play

‘Humanity has been crossed,’ she sniffed in a rivetingly mortifying radio interview

Maria Bailey TD. Photograph: RollingNews.ie

Maria Bailey TD. Photograph: RollingNews.ie


One politician swinging near a wall,
One politician swinging near a wall,
And if one politician should accidentally fall,
There’ll be two green bottles caught up in it all . . .

Actually, the two bottles got away very lightly in Maria Bailey’s mid-morning radio blamefest on Monday, when she held everyone but herself responsible for the humiliating fallout she is now enduring following a Friday night fall from a swing in a Dublin hotel. (She said in her court statement that it happened on a Monday but this was a mistake, which she has made sure her legal team corrected while she was instructing them to drop the case.)

The Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire sued the Dean Hotel over her injuries. Details from her claim to the Circuit Court (where the maximum award is €60,000) were published last week, causing significant embarrassment for her Government on a crusade to drive down insurance claims in the run-up to elections.

Bailey called off the lawyers at the weekend as party colleagues, fuming over the negative reaction on the doorsteps, scrambled to disown her actions. Then on Monday, she managed to compound her difficulties in a rivetingly mortifying interview with Seán O’Rourke where she sought to explain why she sued the hotel and why there were some inaccuracies in her legal pleadings.

Maria hurt herself falling off what is now the most famous swing in Ireland, taking her hands off the side ropes to hold a couple of bottles. Her injuries were such that when she decided to “dip her toe” back into exercising by running a 10km race just three weeks later, she ended up posting a shocking finishing time – three-quarters of a minute slower than her effort the previous year.

She was on painkillers when she ran. “Seán, Seán, I was hurt. I was hurt and I’m a citizen of this State too.”

You can understand why she called in the lawyers.

Maria subsequently got a bit mixed up with the account she gave to her lawyers, stating she was unable to do any running at all for three months after her swing sting. How could that have happened?

“No. Yes, sorry, it is in the claim and that is wrong because, and I have instructed, and this, you see this is where it’s dangerous ...”

Media’s fault

No matter because it’s all the media’s fault, and then the hotel didn’t co-operate on the medical expenses front and her legal advisers advised her and she listened to them and people disgracefully leaked stuff and political enemies were out to get Fine Gael and maybe Maria Bailey too, and the seat on that swing was shiny wood, but look it, “yesterday was a day, and the day before, the Greens did absolutely well, a clear message was sent to us to act faster on this issue”.

She may have meant climate change or she may have meant the installation of swings near hotel bars without proper supervision in place for adult clients who may have both hands full with bottles.

We remembered Enda Kenny’s famous story about meeting “the man with two pints” in his hands and wondered what fate would have befallen the gentleman had he been sitting on a swing at the time. Would Enda have caught his fall?

But never mind all that. “This is Michael McDowell being ridiculous here,” continued Maria, mentioning the Senator and former attorney general who mentioned the case in the Seanad.

Then there are the “keyboard warriors” who made Maria “the subject of clickbait”. But the keyboard pacifists listening struggled to find sympathy too. The public opinion swingometer wasn’t swinging her way.

But really, it’s the sheer gravity of it all that resonates.

Woman falls off a swing and hits the floor.

Anyone got a number for gravity’s legal people?

‘Distinctly asked’

Deputy Bailey was constrained from contradicting the stories published in the Irish Independent because her case was still ongoing. Just a few months ago she worried details might leak into the public domain before it reached court and “distinctly asked” her legal team if this might happen as she wanted to prepare for it “being out there”.

Unfortunately she didn’t manage to correct her inaccuracies at this point as she consulted her legal team while asking herself, “Is this worth the hassle?”

“Tell me, Maria Bailey,” Seán O’Rourke asked softly, “in what way do you believe the hotel was negligent in this?” Could she explain?

Eh, no. That would be a matter for a judge.

After what has happened, she is loath to believe anything she reads in the papers.

“But nothing has been contradicted of what was in the paper,” Seán reminded her.

No, but she couldn’t give her side because the case was live.

“But you can talk about it now because you’re dropping the case,” soothed Seán, sounding a note of hope.

“I can talk about it now, I can talk about it now and ...”

She didn’t.

No detail on “what exactly happened – were you holding two bottles?”

“Seán, Seán, I am not doing trial by media over the airwaves here.”

“No, I’m just asking you to tell your story, I’m not saying you’ve done anything wrong ... Nobody is questioning whether you were hurt or not, the question is ...”

Fine Gael’s Sultana of Swing pounced triumphantly. “Well then, that is the answer, isn’t it?”

No, roared the keyboard pacifists listening in. It bloody well isn’t.

Counting bottles

O’Rourke was keen to find out about the two bottles, Maria having explained earlier that “I had my beer in my hand and then I was reaching for my friend’s – had a bottle of wine – she was taking her camera out of her jacket. I then found myself on the floor.”

One bottle or two? “You are free to talk freely now that the case has been dropped.”

But no. “I believe in our judicial system in this country and I believe the proper place for that is the Four Courts.”

Bailey, wanted to talk about herself, and the invasion of her privacy. “Humanity has been crossed,” she sniffed, more that once.

“Okay, but just go back to the bottles then ...”

The medical expenses were mentioned. “You’re only talking €6,000-€7,000 here,” said the TD, who underwent three weeks of “intensive physio” and other stuff in the medical aftermath. And while she has private insurance, it “doesn’t cover your entire costs, everyone knows”.

So is there anything good at all in this sad case?

Of course there is.

Maria told Seán: “I don’t doubt myself. I know exactly who I am, okay?”

Which is something.

“Seán, can I be really clear on this, because there is a silver lining to this. I am very clear who I am as a person ... I have learnt a huge amount about me.”

Haven’t we all?.

“I am drawing a line in the sand under this and moving on.”

The Sultana of Swing left the radio centre in the company of PR man Paul Allen.

Watching them on the news leaving RTÉ, the words of Fr Ted after the disastrous visit of three bishops to Craggy Island came to mind: “Went pretty well, I thought.”