Rumours swirl in Fine Gael of legal challenge from Maria Bailey
Party meeting voted to remove TD from general election ticket in Dún Laoghaire
Fine Gael politician Maria Bailey has been deselected by the party. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A long-time fundraiser for Fine Gael has raised concerns about the process that resulted in Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey being thrown off the party ticket for the next election.
Ann Strain, well-known for running Fine Gael’s national draw for many years, has confirmed she complained at the October 31st meeting in the constituency that members had not been given proper notice of the meeting.
That meeting voted to ask the party’s ruling executive council to review the general election ticket, resulting in this week’s decision to deselect Ms Bailey. It followed the controversy and 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.
As rumours swirl in the Fine Gael organisation about a possible legal challenge from Ms Bailey to the decision, Ms Strain has confirmed she had concerns that the membership in the constituency was not properly notified for the crucial October 31st meeting.
“To me, that wasn’t a fair meeting at all,” Ms Strain said.
Ms Strain said she was not a supporter of Ms Bailey, but was aware of other people having concerns about people not being notified of the meeting. It is also claimed that new members were present on the night and allowed to vote, though party sources stressed this was not in conflict with party rules, which stipulate only that new members cannot vote in selection conventions.
A Fine Gael spokesman said: “No elected public representatives expressed any concerns about the calling of the meeting, the conduct of the meeting or who was invited to the meeting on October 31st. It was the most widely publicised Fine Gael constituency meeting in years in advance of it.”
However, the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, who met Ms Bailey in advance of Thursday night’s meeting, acknowledged that Ms Bailey did raise concerns about the meeting on Halloween night. “Ms Bailey did indicate she had issues in relation to how the meeting was conducted,” he said, but he was unaware of what those issues were.
On the possibility that the Dun Laoghaire TD might legally challenge the executive council decision, the Minister said that was a matter for Ms Bailey herself.
He said it was “very much a matter for Deputy Bailey regarding if she looks to take any further action” on her deselection but that she had handled their discussion in a “dignified and composed way”.
Mr Donohoe was speaking to reporters following the announcement of a three-year €750,000 corporate sponsorship of Belvedere Youth Club in Dublin’s north inner city by SMBC Aviation Capital.
Referring to Thursday night’s meeting, Mr Donohoe said: “It was a difficult meeting with her and she made her points to me in an exceptionally professional and dignified way,” he said.
Mr Donohoe added that he was conscious “we have a member of Dáil Éireann who worked very hard to get elected and to represent her constituency”.
He said: “It has been a matter for great public debate and strong public feeling but it was also something that Deputy Bailey has had to live through and as I comment I’m very conscious of it.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “absolutely confident that the meeting... was in accordance with our party rules”. Referring to the possibility of a legal challenge, he said: “I can’t predict what action Deputy Bailey may or may not take.”
Mr Varadkar said that he “very much” appreciated this was a “difficult personal time for Deputy Bailey”.
“It’s never a nice thing to be deselected as an election candidate and I can understand how she must be feeling at the moment,” he said.