Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stopped short of suspending Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey or removing her as a general election candidate over the now infamous swing case - claiming she has already suffered "negative criticism" from the public.
In a long-awaited and detailed statement on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said despite an independent inquiry conducted on behalf of Fine Gael finding a series of concerns about her actions Ms Bailey should remain in the party.
Mr Varadkar has confirmed Ms Bailey will now be "demoted" from the Oireachtas housing committee chair position she currently holds, and which comes with a €9,500 extra income.
However, the Taoiseach said he is taking no further action.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Varadkar said:
- while Ms Bailey's claim "was not fraudulent" she "overstated the impact of her injuries" in an affidavit and had been told she faced "contributory negligence" for what happened
- provided "inconsistencies to me and the media" both before and after the case became public knowledge "which I cannot reconcile"
- made "numerous errors of judgement" in relation to her handling of the case which "jar" with what he says his party stands for on compensation culture issues
- and that while Ms Bailey will be demoted from her Oireachtas committee chair role, she will not be removed or suspended from the party
Mr Varadkar's statement, which can be read in full below, also said Fine Gael TD and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan initially advised Ms Bailey on her case against the Dean Hotel in Dublin city centre while a backbench TD in 2015.
However, she subsequently passed the case onto a colleague in her solicitor's firm, and as such - the Taoiseach said - has nothing to answer for.
Ms Bailey has insisted she "made no attempt to mislead" over the scale of her injuries despite accepting the Taoiseach's decision to demote her over the case.
In a statement through the Fine Gael press office on Tuesday evening, Ms Bailey - who has been silent on what happened since her appearance on RTÉ Radio's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme - accepted mistakes were made.
Ms Bailey said she suffered "painful injuries" when she fell off a swing at the Dean Hotel in Dublin city centre in 2015 and noted that the still unpublished independent report commissioned by Fine Gael found it was "not a fraudulent claim".
However, despite saying "I made no attempt to mislead", she admitted "I regret very much that I took the case" and accepted the Taoiseach's decision to demote her from her previous Oireachtas housing committee chair role.
The Taoiseach's full statement can be read below:
The inquiry confirms the following:
“Deputy Bailey was injured following a fall from a swing in a hotel in 2015. She sustained painful injuries and incurred significant medical bills as a result.
“The accident happened and the injuries were real and were confirmed by medical reports. The inquiry states that it was not a fraudulent claim.
“Minister Madigan (then a backbench TD) gave initial legal advice, guidance and assisted Deputy Bailey with her Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application. This was a preliminary step which often results in amicable resolution but the hotel did not engage with the PIAB.
Minister Madigan did not deal with the subsequent legal proceedings. These were dealt with by another solicitor in the firm who acted on Deputy Bailey’s instructions.
“She was advised that she had a ‘statable’ case. However, there were concerns that a finding of contributory negligence against her was likely and this was communicated to her on several occasions.
“Deputy Bailey signed an affidavit (linked to a personal injuries summons) that over-stated the impact of her injuries on her running.
"The inquiry concludes that it is unlikely that a court would conclude that she deliberately sought to mislead as other legal documents talk about her running being restricted rather than not being able to run at all.
“There have been inconsistencies in Deputy Bailey’s account of events to me and the media that I cannot reconcile.
“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.
"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.
“It is not normal practice for political parties to publish internal investigations. I considered making an exception in this case. In my meeting with David Kennedy SC he advised me that as this was not a public or statutory investigation, he has no powers of compellability and therefore sought and received the co-operation of the individuals and parties involved on the basis of confidentiality.
"It would be wrong of me to breach this confidence.”