A closer look at Maria Bailey: Who is the controversial 'swing case' TD?

Maria Bailey

Maria Bailey (43) is a first-time TD, who was elected on the seventh count in 2016 as one of three Fine Gael TDs in the Dun Laoghaire constituency.

One of five daughters born to John and Angela, she grew up in the Killiney area where he was a publican, tour operator and managing director in a car rental company.

A second cousin of Health Minister Simon Harris, but it would be fair to say, they are not close. She went to school in Our Lady of Good Counsel N.S. Johnstown and then attended Sion Hill and St Joseph’s of Cluny and later University College Dublin.

She has suffered migraines since the age of 16 and has sought to raise awareness of the condition and the benefits of running and being active in seeking to moderate them.

In 2004, Maria at the age of 27 and her father were both elected to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council for the first time. He topped the poll in Dun Laoghaire and her in the Ballybrack Ward.

On the council, the two were indistinguishable from each other and worked very closely on most matters, to the annoyance of many.

Some former colleagues have said her dad's more abrasive manner could be the source of annoyance to some council colleagues and given how close they worked, some of that resentment rubbed off on her.

Given the Baileys' “late arrival” into Fine Gael, some of the party's old guard were resentful of their success.

“They were looked down upon by some Fine Gaelers in Dalkey, who quite frankly are up their own backsides. But the Baileys, and Maria in particular, were known as grafters,” said one.

The same year she joined the council, Ms Bailey, who also worked in Aer Lingus, married James Ryan and the couple has two children.

Despite some internal opposition, she was picked to run for Fine Gael alongside Mary Mitchell O'Connor in the 2016 constituency. With Sean Barrett returned automatically as Ceann Comhairle, Fine Gael now holds three of four seats and took two of the three available on what was a difficult day for the party.

Maria Bailey and Paschal Donohoe
Maria Bailey and Paschal Donohoe

Once in the Dáil, she soon became close to other new TDs Josepha Madigan and Kate O'Connell and were often seen together in the Oireachtas canteen.

A split occurred when Ms Madigan decided to back Leo Varadkar for the leadership. Ms O'Connell could hardly do the same when her arch rival and colleague Eoghan Murphy was his campaign manager. Ms O'Connell and Ms Bailey both backed Coveney. Ms Madigan was promoted to Cabinet and the other two are still backbenchers.

Ms Bailey was appointed chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee and has highlighted the plight of those caught in negative equity and those who have been maltreated by the banks.

But, not regarded as being as astute as Ms Madigan or as forthright as Ms O'Connell, Ms Bailey was not one widely regarded as Cabinet material.

Undoubtedly Monday's interview has done her enormous damage.

There is talk already that newly elected councillor and former legal advisor to Enda Kenny, Jennifer Carroll McNeill, could seek to play a part in the shake-up for the next election. That could only happen at Ms Bailey's expense.

More on this topic

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Taoiseach: Review to 'establish the facts' in Maria Bailey swing case will take two weeks

Fine Gael to undertake internal review into Maria Bailey swing case

Leo Varadkar endorses Minister's criticism of Maria Bailey over 'swing-gate' case

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