The Irish Times view on Maria Bailey: a question of judgment
The Dublin TD’s refusal to take ownership of her own actions, behaving as if she had no agency in proceedings taken in her name, is not good enough
One of the most basic principles of our legal system is that any individual is entitled to take a case to the courts and to have it decided on by an independent judge. Nobody disputes that Maria Bailey enjoys that right as much as anyone else.
Yet the circumstances in which the Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown initiated legal action against a Dublin hotel after she fell off a swing – and her subsequent response to that claim being legitimately put into the public domain – raise questions about her judgment.
Bailey’s legal action – now withdrawn – embarrassed Fine Gael in the final week of the election campaign
Bailey says she suffered serious injuries after falling off a swing on a night out in July 2015. According to reports, the factual accuracy of which Bailey has not challenged, she alleged negligence or breach of duty by the hotel on 18 grounds, including that the swing was “unsupervised” and that there were no signs to instruct people how to use it. Bailey said in her statement of claim she could not run for three months after the incident, according to the same reports, but her social media posts show that she ran a 10km race a month later. At a time when so many businesses are struggling with soaring insurance premiums partly linked to a compensation culture her own government is committed to tackling, Bailey’s legal action – now withdrawn – embarrassed Fine Gael in the final week of the election campaign.
In an ill-judged, defensive interview on RTÉ Radio on Monday, Bailey bemoaned a media “witch-hunt” – one that consisted of faithful reporting on legal papers issued in her name – and refused to answer key questions about her action. Why was the hotel responsible for her injuries? That was “for a judge to adjudicate”, she said, before falling back on the familiar, specious argument that legal cases cannot be talked about. Bailey’s refusal to take ownership of her own actions, behaving as if she had no agency in proceedings taken in her name, is not good enough.
For Fine Gael, it comes with a silver lining of sorts. The more the focus remains on Maria Bailey, the less senior party figures have to answer for the party’s poor showing at the ballot box.