Tenacious Maria Bailey refused to go quietly

Tenacious Maria Bailey refused to go quietly

The best dramas always have a plot twist at the end.

The unexpected closing scene in the Swing-gate saga came just hours before the Fine Gael national executive meeting, when rumours began to swirl that Maria Bailey would address the gathering at party HQ.

This was dubbed an unprecedented move — but throughout the controversy, Ms Bailey had carved out her own route.

Whether viewed as dogged, stubborn, tenacious, or just plain stupid, the Dun Laoghaire TD refused to back down and bow out of her own volition even after the public and most of those within her own party turned against her.

An hour before the meeting was due to begin, she was spotted with two female supporters in the Dáil canteen.

Smiling and confident, she said she wanted to address the meeting to “tell the truth”.

“The truth always outs in the end,” she added, before picking up three bottles of water.

It was clear that the backbencher was mentally prepared for a final battle and was in no humour to concede defeat.

Since the details of Ms Bailey’s claim against the Dean Hotel — which she ultimately dropped — first emerged earlier this year, the TD has faced a very public backlash, has been the subject of memes, the butt of jokes, and even the inspiration of a Halloween costume which went viral on Twitter.

But yet, she stood her ground.

Bailey's replacement as a candidate in the Dún Laoghaire constituency, Cllr Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.
Bailey's replacement as a candidate in the Dún Laoghaire constituency, Cllr Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Back in 2016 out on the general election canvass, Ms Bailey provided an insight of her thinking to this paper: “I prefer that gentle effective approach rather than a feisty approach. Don’t get me wrong, I always stand my ground, but if I think I can get something over the line with a compromise, I am willing to do that. I don’t have tunnel vision, but you can’t be all to everybody — you have to stay true to what you believe.”

But it won’t be this quote, or the many Dáil and committee contributions she has made since her election to Leinster House, that the public will remember.

Her now-famous interview with Sean O’Rourke was one of those few occasions where time seemed to slowed to an excruciating pace.

“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.”

The interview continued, and so did Ms Bailey: “Sean, I am not opening a trial here ... I was hurt, I have medical expenses.”

It was clear that even after the Taoiseach stripped her of her position as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee, Ms Bailey believed she was right — even if no one else did.

She faced her detractors again last month when she stood up at a constituency meeting to make her case ahead of a motion to remove her from the general election ticket.

Despite the passionate appeal in which Ms Bailey admitted that she had made mistakes, her local party branch backed the motion calling on the Fine Gael executive council to “urgently review” the ticket for the next general election.

Just because you stand your ground doesn’t mean it won’t be cut from under you — a lesson Maria Bailey has now learned.

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