Transcript of Maria Bailey interview on Sean O’Rourke show

‘This was methodical, this was well orchestrated, this was preplanned to cause maximum damage’

Maria Bailey: ‘I was hurt, I have medical expenses. Nobody questions that . . . The reason it took such great traction here is I am the subject of click bait’. Photograph: The Irish Times

Maria Bailey: ‘I was hurt, I have medical expenses. Nobody questions that . . . The reason it took such great traction here is I am the subject of click bait’. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

On Monday Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey gave an interview to RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show to discuss the fallout from her legal case following her fall from a swing in the Dean Hotel in Dublin.

Below is a full transcript of the interview.

Sean O’Rourke: Why have you decided to drop this case?

Maria Bailey: Just to be clear, I’m not looking for damages, I was only looking to have my medical expenses recouped. This has been a hugely distressing, intrusive, abusive week. So what unfolded for me this week . . . this has been a hugely distressing, intrusive, abusive week that my family and I have succumbed to, completely unwarranted, through leaked documents last Sunday.

I received a phone call last Sunday from a journalist who had a lot of private medical information about me. [I]don’t know about you but when you go to your GP, do you want people to know why you’re there?

He basically said to me, ‘I need a comment.’ I said ‘this is a live case, I can’t prejudice that case, and he knew that’.

The response was ‘well, if you don’t, I have to fill a story.’

Now, that’s not a level playing pitch, as somebody who grew up on the sideline of a GAA pitch, I play fair, I don’t play offside.

SOR: This was presumably information he or she acquired through court documents?

MB: We’re at the very early stage here of a preliminary exchange of documents, discovery documents. This case was only for listing. It was a closed file, it was not for the public information.

SOR: Were there political dirty tricks involved?

MB: I’m not going to cast aspersions on air, because that’s not the way I play, I will deal with that in my own way ...

SOR: Would it have been done, and I obviously can’t name any names because we wouldn’t be able to publish those any way, or broadcast them, was it done from within your own party or from another party?

MB: I’m not going to cast aspersions Sean.

SOR: Ok.

MB: I play fair, and unless the person’s here to defend themselves I wouldn’t do that.

SOR: I’m not asking you to name anyone, but it is a matter of interest that you believe this happened, you say you know this happened, but you won’t say if it was from within your own party ...

MB: This was methodical, this was well orchestrated, this was preplanned to cause maximum damage and I am the collateral damage in the interim of that. On the Tuesday I had decided myself that I was going to withdraw the case, because I didn’t want to be a distraction. I was advised, rightly advised, that that would be seen as a cynical move the week of the local election and not because I had done anything wrong by the way.

I was hurt, I have medical expenses. Nobody questions that here, and the reason it took such great traction here is I am the subject of click bait, so it was trending so well and I have to say, ‘ well done’ I handed them a fantastic headline. I accept that.

SOR: Hold on a minute when you say you want to play fair and so forth, what about your party colleagues up and down the country, a colleague of mine from Co Monaghan saying she met a local Fine Gael councillor in that part of the country saying ‘we got an awful lot about Maria Bailey’ - did you give any thought to what they had to deal with on the door steps?

MB: I have been through numerous elections. They are highly emotive times, you are absolutely worn out, flat tired by the last week, an election is not won in the last week, or lost in the last week.

SOR: You could have pulled out. Did you look for advice from within the party?

MB: Absolutely, I seeked (sic) legal advice as well, I was told it would be a cynical move ...

SOR: Was that the political advice or the legal advice?

MB: No, the legal advice. Regardless of that the papers were still going to print.

SOR: Did you ring someone like Tom Curran, the general secretary of Fine Gael?

MB: I’m not going to name people here. I don’t do that.

SOR: Did you come under pressure from the Taoiseach or anybody in the party?

MB: Absolutely not, it was a private matter. This happened long before I was a TD. I was a councillor at the time.

SOR: Can I just go back? Because you have an understandable grievance that what was a private matter, medical reports and so forth, became public. Nonetheless, that is what happened. Can we go right back to the night in July of 2015. What happened?

MB: As you know Sean, I’m not a big social animal, I rarely go out to be honest. I’m quite happy to sit at home, pyjamas on, on the couch, with the kids but I went out that night. We met at my friend’s house in Sandyford, we had a glass of wine each, we hopped on the Luas, and we went to a bar/hotel that had just recently opened.

We purchased a drink each at the bar, which we didn’t consume, we went up in the lift, we saw the swings. Nobody was drunk, nobody was messing, they’re like polished wood, these seats. I sat on them, I did have a bottle of beer in my hand and next thing I knew I was on the floor.

SOR: Ok, one bottle of beer in one hand ...

MB: I had my beer in my hand, and then I was reaching for my friend’s, I had a bottle of wine, she was taking her camera out of her jacket, I then found myself on the floor.

I was mortified, I jumped up, because I was just mortified. I went to the bathroom with two of my friends to assess. I had a few cuts and grazes, whatever, I went down to reception and I asked for some plasters. At all times, I will have to say to you, and during the course of this, the hotel have always been respectful and very decent ...

SOR: Just clarify one thing, did you have something in each hand when this happened?

MB: That would have been a case for the judge to adjudicate on ...

SOR: What is your recollection?

MB: Sean, I am not opening a trial here.

SOR: It’s a legitimate question to ask you because you came here to talk about this whole case and why you’ve dropped it - now for you not to be able to tell me, and you’ve dropped the case, so the question of a judge doesn’t actually arise ... I’m just asking you to tell me what happened.

MB: It actually does, Sean and I’ll tell you why it does matter, because I believe in our judicial system in this country and I believe the proper place for that is the Four Courts ...

SOR: But you’re not going there now ...

MB: Sean, let me tell you why I’m not going there. Due to the unbelievable abuse I wasn’t able to go home for three days last week because journalists were sitting outside my home. That is an invasion of my privacy and humanity has been crossed.

SOR: But just go back to the bottles ...

MB: Let me be very clear here, as a State we need to decide who our judicial system is here, is it the media or is it the courts? The media were judge, jury and executioner in a leaked document, a partial leaked document, that was not finalised ...

SOR: There were not just the media writing and reporting on it, as is their perfect right. There were former senior ministers including a former attorney general who spoke about it in the Seanad, Michael McDowell ...

MB: He should know better, it was a live case.

SOR: You had Micheál Martin ...

MB: He should know better too, without fact, these people should know better without fact. These are legislators ...

SOR: You were an irresistible target. I want to go back - how can you sit on a swing and hold bottles in your hand and presume you won’t fall?

MB: Sean, I was injured. I am the one who suffered an injury. I never claimed for compensation. The hotel agreed to pay my medical expenses. I ended up in A&E the next morning. Nobody else got hurt here except me.

I never said I stopped living. I never said I stopped walking, that’s not my attitude. Three weeks later . . . I went through intensive physio for three weeks, it’s well documented that I am an avid runner, it is well documented out there, I’ve never hidden that.

Running is a cornerstone of my wellbeing and keeping me medicated to offset cluster migraines. I went through intensive physio and like any athlete I wanted to dip my toe into the water to see if I could do it. I paid the price for it that night and I regretted doing it ...

SOR: You’re confirming that three weeks ...

MB: I never denied that, I put that on my social media.

SOR: Clarify one thing, the date on which this happened?

MB: The date is wrong in the affidavit, and I have instructed my solicitors to correct that.

SOR: So it was actually the 10th of July and not on the 13th?

MB: The Friday.

SOR: Three weeks later, after intense physio, you ran in a 10k ...

MB: and pain medication

SOR: and ran a good time, but is it not the case, in your statement of claim you said you weren’t able to do any running for three months?

MB: It is in the claim and that is wrong, and I’ve instructed ... this is where it’s dangerous when you cross legal documents at an early stage. The plaintiff has every right to amend those particulars prior to it going before a judge. And a judge can adjudicate in due course on that.

I was the one who put it on my social media, I had nothing to hide here. Sean you know me as somebody upfront and with integrity.

SOR: Tell me as well, you were at a festival, a music festival within a week of this happening.

MB: I went to Marlay Park with my friends and I sat on the grass and I watched a band and I left and I went home. I never said I locked myself away in a monastery.

Like, this is a joke, I had to lock myself away for three days this week and couldn’t go home.

I am a public figure and I accept I am held to a higher standard. I fully accept that, but I also expect due process ...

SOR: Of course, tell me this much Maria Bailey, in what way do you believe the hotel was negligent in this?

MB: Sean, that would have been for a judge to adjudicate, that is not for you or me, that would have been ...

SOR: I want you to explain to me ...

MB: Sean I’m not a legal person, I took legal advice on this and I put every faith into that legal system and I was told I had a clear cut case.

SOR: Do you believe the hotel should have had a supervisor there?

MB: Sean, that legal case was put forward, right, that’s what you do when you put forward a case. What I’m saying to you is, I asked a number of months back ‘is this worth the hassle?’ because to be honest I just want to get on with my life ... I was told ‘you have nothing to fear’, and I distinctly asked ‘when will this information become public?’ so I can prepare myself for it being out there.

And I was told ‘this will not be public until you are before the courts’ and I was perfectly fine with that.

SOR: But why have a supervisor at a swing?

MB: Look, this is Michael McDowell being ridiculous here. This case was a live case, he was being sub judice, and he should have known better.

SOR: The fact is, it’s out there now.

MB: But it’s out there ... can we roll this back? Can we roll this back a little bit here? In my 15 years elected, one week, one week of my career, someone has tried to character assassinate me and my family and the invasion of privacy I’ve had, and they’re trying to negate all the good work that I have done. I am so passionate about my job I am not bowing down to keyboard warriors and bullies.

SOR: But it’s not just keyboard warriors, you have brought this on your own head.

MB: Sean, I did nothing wrong, I am fully entitled, if I was injured, to bring a legitimate case.

SOR: If you have filed court documents suggesting that you weren’t able to run for instance for three months ...

MB: They have been amended Sean ...

SOR: ... and it turns out you were running within three weeks and running a pretty good time.

MB: ... not for me

SOR: This raises questions in the public mind, presumably you had some input, you gave information to the legal advisers.

MB: You’re filling out an affidavit three years after the event, you do that with the best of intentions, but you know that prior to that going before the judge that you can amend that affidavit. This was a deliberate leak to cause maximum damage. I’m not quite sure was it to me or to the wider party. I’m still evaluating that.

SOR: That may well be the case, but the question also has to be asked was this a deliberate attempt on your part to get money to which the validity of the claim was dubious ...

MB: There are legitimate expenses that are verified, you’re only talking, €6,000 - €7,000 here. I’ve absorbed those costs already.

SOR: Do you have private medical insurance?

MB: Yes, I do.

SOR: So why get the hotel to pay those medical expenses?

MB: Because the hotel offered to pay and your private medical doesn’t cover the entire medical costs. Everybody knows that. I don’t doubt myself. I know exactly who I am. I have always been somebody who shoots straight, who plays on a level playing field. I had a legitimate case and a judge would have adjudicated on that.

What I and my family have been subjected to is incredible, the distress, the abuse, I had to come off all social media.

I couldn’t drop my kids to school even though I had great support and that, because I didn’t want to bring attention on myself. I had to lock myself away and work from home this week with the exception of going into the Oireachtas to do my job.

The media, and one in particular, have crossed the line of humanity and invasion here, and I’m a public figure, my family are not.

SOR: That’s the reason why. You are a public figure. You had the chance to stand up and be a bigger person and say ...

MB: Sean, I was hurt ... I was genuinely hurt. Anybody with back injury knows, anybody with a back injury knows you can be fine for a while, you can sneeze or you can get out of bed the wrong way, and your back is sore, it is a constant management of back. And I am regimental with that.

SOR: Nobody is questioning if you were hurt ... where does the responsibility lie for that?

MB: That was for a judge to decide. Our judicial system is in the Four Courts. It is not judge, jury and execution by the media. Who are journalists accountable to? I am accountable to the people, they will make their own decision. But who are journalists accountable to?

SOR: Coming right up to yesterday, the Taoiseach said on The This Week programme, Leo Varadkar, your party leader, that you had done the party reputational damage as a result of the publicity surrounding this case in the run up to the election. What do you say to that?

MB: I think yesterday was a big day for a lot of people and a very tough day for people who weren’t elected. I stand firm in the belief that I take responsibility in the sense that my name was on this case.

I don’t take responsibility that three weeks prior this being leaked that this wasn’t a deliberate attempt to have massive impact in the last week of the election on this party.

Yesterday and the day before, the Greens did absolutely well, a clear message was sent to us to act faster on this issue [climate change]. In my own constituency we retained the seats that we have.

SOR: So you’re saying you didn’t do the party reputational damage?

MB: No, I didn’t say that. What he said was it would be hard to quantify. Sean I am a long time in politics. I looked at the exit polls, and the main reason that people vote for local politicians in local elections, not normally national issues, but in this case partially it was, it was on meeting the candidate.

It was on their work ethic, it was on what they were going to deliver for their community. They were the main reason why people voted for their local candidates.

SOR: True, two things were cited where Fine Gael were concerned - one is your situation, the other is the comment by the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy where he said people would be excited at the idea of shared living and that appears not to have gone down well. Can I ask you this: It’s reported in the Independent, which broke this story last week ...

MB: Same journalist

SOR: It’s understood Mr Varadkar is minded to refer the episode to Fine Gael’s executive council which has the power to expel you from the party for a period of time...

MB: After the week I’ve had I’m loathe to believe what I read in the paper.

SOR: But nothing has been contradicted about what was in the paper.

MB: Sorry, it’s been taken out of context. And without my side of the story because they knew I couldn’t talk about it. That is not a level playing field. That’s an injustice.

SOR: But you can talk about now because you dropped the case but still you won’t give us the detail on what exactly happened - were you holding two bottles?

MB: Sean, I am not doing trial by media over the airwaves. I have done nothing wrong here.

SOR: I’m not saying you did anything wrong

MB: Sean, I was hurt. And I am a citizen of this State too.

SOR: But what about the fact, that of all the issues - aside from housing and waiting lists - insurance is a hot political potato, we’ve had people sitting in this exact seat on which you’re sitting now Maria Bailey who have been at their wits end, on the verge of tears and sometimes beyond that, at the kind of challenge they’re faced with, the bills they’re getting because of the compensation culture.

MB: That’s because of fraudulent cases, Sean. Mine wasn’t. Don’t muddy the waters here. Mine was legitimate. I took clear legal advice on this. I am not a legal expert. I followed the legal advice that I got.

SOR: Did you go to the current Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan about this? Neither you, nor she were members of the Dáil at the time. Was she involved in advising you in any way?

MB: I don’t see any reason in answering a question like that. That has nothing to do with this now. This case is gone, this case is dropped. I was with Madigan Solicitors.

SOR: Was she involved in advising you?

MB: I’m not going to get into that Sean.

SOR: We need to say again that the hotel denies any liability in this case. It’s not going to be judged now but over all it’s clear that you feel hurt, you feel aggrieved ...

MB: No, Sean, what I really feel here is, I have worked so hard for my career, I am a working parent of two children, that balances work and home life. I am representative of today’s society in a changing world. I have a clear voice and a clear mandate in Leinster House that I want to fulfil my role.

SOR: What about the people who say you might not be fit to represent Fine Gael, because it’s a party of integrity, a party of doing the right thing.

MB: 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 am very clear what my values are, and I am very clear in being an honest person and I stand over that. And the silver lining to this for me and I have been reflecting on it, on an incredibly tough week that I now want to put behind me and move on and get on to what I want to do, especially around regulating home care and things like that, is I have learned a huge amount about me, about dealing with adversity, about media, social media, the impact that it has on public opinion, on mental health, on their wellbeing, but most of all I’ve learnt a lot about people. And I will be reflecting on that. But I am a strong female politician, and some people don’t like that.

And I will not bow down or be bullied by words that are in print that I didn’t have a balanced debate on because it was a live case and I will not be bullied by keyboard warriors.

SOR: Are you fearful about meeting the Taoiseach and having to explain all this to him?

MB: Absolutely not. Clearly not.

SOR: Do you think you might be thrown out by the executive council or suspended?

MB: Absolutely not. No I don’t Sean. Look, the Taoiseach knows me as somebody who’s hard working and integral (sic) and I see the Taoiseach on a regular basis, right, and I go to him all the time with policies and if he looks to meet me this week, brilliant, I will use that opportunity to come forward with my proposals about regulating home care, affordable housing and other areas that I’m looking at.

SOR: Were you not at least naive in thinking it could stay private.

MB: Possibly I was, possibly I was.

SOR: Finally, how do you move on from this?

MB: I am drawing a line in the sand on this today, and I am moving on, I am back in the Oireachtas tomorrow I have a really busy week. I have the Minister for Housing is coming in around Rebuilding Ireland. I chair the Committee of Chairs with the Taoiseach coming into meet the chairs, and I put my head down and I work.

SOR: Maria Bailey Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, thank you.

MB: Thank you.