Health Minister Simon Harris has said fellow Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey could have withdrawn her injury claim over falling off a swing before the local and European elections.
He said theinterview with the Dun Laoghaire TD this morning was "unfortunate" and saw her “blaming lots” of other people. He also questioned why she had not spoken to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in advance of going on the radio show.
The controversy over Ms Bailey's claim has overshadowed Fine Gael's election campaign and seen huge questions about why the TD lodged the injury case against the hotel over falling off a swing.
Mr Varadkar said this week the controversy surrounding her €60,000 injury claim after a fall from an “unsupervised” swing had damaged the party. She has now withdrawn it.
This morning, the south Dublin TD went on radio and attacked the media over covering the story about her claim and also refused to answer questions about what she had in her hands when she fell off the hotel swing in 2015 while out socialising with friends.
Mr Harris, speaking in the RDS Dublin, said theinterview was “unfortunate”. He added:
"I think it is appropriate that the Taoiseach will obviously meet with deputy Bailey, I think that is regrettable that that didn't happen in advance of an interview. I think it was important he was afforded that opportunity to have that meeting with Maria.
When you withdraw a claim, perhaps that is an acknowledgement that perhaps that claim shouldn't have proceeded. Yet the interview very much seemed to be in the space of blaming lots of people.
He said it had been a very difficult and stressful time for the Bailey family.
“I think members up and down the country would have appreciated if it was going to be withdrawn, it could have happened before the local and European elections, not after. I think perhaps had that happened, the situation could have been more effectively dealt with.”
Speaking later at the launch of a national skin cancer policy in the Department of Health in Dublin, Mr Harris said: “I think it would have been preferable for that [Ms Bailey withdrawing her case] to take place before the local and European elections.
“I think it was unwise to do the interview today and it is now a matter for the Taoiseach to meet with Deputy Bailey and I know he will do that in the coming days.”
The issue has overshadowed Fine Gael's election campaign after it emerged that the Dun Laoghaire TD sued the Dean Hotel in Dublin over falling off a swing in its reception area.
It also emerged in recent days that Ms Bailey, who claimed to have had trouble moving and sitting after the July 2015 accident in her court claim, ran a 10km race in her local area just three weeks after the swing fall.
Mr Harris is also Ms Bailey's second cousin.
Meanwhile, the Justice Minister has vowed to prioritise legislation to reform personal injury awards in the wake of the case.
Speaking at the Ireland South count centre, Charlie Flanagan said Ms Bailey's case had come up on the doorsteps and but he added that he "wouldn't like to overegg it or overplay it".
"I heard the interview with Maria Bailey this morning.
"I'm surprised that she spoke so freely about it but this is a matter entirely for Maria herself and I understand that she has discontinued the civil action she's taken in a private capacity.
"I accept that the optics have not been good, it was an issue that was raised on the doorsteps but I am very keen to ensure now that we proceed the legislative programme that will result in a reformed insurance framework."
Read the full transcript of Ms Bailey's interview with Sean O'Rourke this morning...
Maria Bailey Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoighre-Rathdown, Good morning to you.
Good morning Sean.
It's often said there's no such thing as bad publicity. You've got an awful lot of publicity in the last week, most of it, in fact, virtually all of it has been bad and it has led to you deciding to drop your case against the Dean Hotel for negligence. You were looking for damages and also medical expenses as a result of an incident there a couple of years ago. Just tell me, why have you decided to drop this case?
Just to be clear, I'm not looking for damages. I was only looking to have my medical expenses recouped. And I was never looking for compensation. So what unfolded for me this week, and I will say, Sean, 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, Sean, I don't know about you but when you go to your GP, do you want people to know why you were there? And he basically said to me, I need a comment. I said, this a live case, I can't prejudice that case, and he knew that. And the response was, well, if you don't, I have to fill a story. Now, that's not a level playing pitch, and as somebody who grew up on the sideline of a GAA pitch, I play fair, I don't play offside.
This though, was presumably information which he acquired or she through court documents.
So we were at the very early stage here of preliminary exchanging documents, discovery documents. This case was only for listing. It was a closed file. It was not for the public information.
Were there political dirty tricks involved?
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.
Would it have been done, and I obviously can't ask you to name any names because we wouldn't be able to publish those anyway, our broadcast them, but was it done from within your own party or from another party?
I'm not going to cast aspersions Sean.
I play fair and unless the person is here to defend themselves, I wouldn't do that.
Yeah. I'm not asking you to name anybody, but it does.,,it is a matter of interest that you believe this happened. You say you know this happened, but you won't say whether it happened within your own party or form another party.
This was my methodical. This was well orchestrated, this was pre-planned to cause maximum damage. And and I am the collateral damage in the end term of that. And what unveiled after 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. And I was advised and rightly advised that it would be seen as a cynical move the week of the local elections, and not because I had done anything wrong, by the way, I was hurt. I have medical expenses. Nobody, nobody questions that here. And the reason it took such great traction here, Sean 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.
Okay, but hold on a minute when you say you know, you want to play fair and so forth. What about your party colleagues up and down the country? A colleague of mine this morning from county Monaghan saying she met a local Fine Gael councillor in that part of the country, saying, you know, we got an awful lot about Maria Bailey. I mean, did you give any thought to what they had to deal with on the doorsteps?
Sean, 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.
Yeah but did you look for advice from within the party?
Absolutely, look, I seeked advice, legal advice as well. I was told it would be seen as a cynical move...
Was that the political advice or the legal advice?
No the legal advice. Regardless, regardless of that Sean, the papers were still going to print…
I know but did you ring, for instance, did you ring somebody like Tom Curran, the general secretary of Fine Gael and ask him for advice?
I'm not going to name people here. I don't do that.
Did you come under pressure from the Taoiseach
or anybody in party?
It was a private matter. This happened long before I was a TD. I was a councillor at the time.
Right now 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.
As you know, Sean, I'm not a big social animal. I really go out to be honest. I'm quite happy to sit at home, pajamas 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.
Okay, one bottle of beer in one hand?
I had my beer in my hand and then I was reaching for my friend's....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 the reception. I asked for some plasters. And 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.
Just clarify one thing, did you have something in each hand when this happened?
Sean, that would have been a case for the judge to adjudicate on and I'm not going to..
But what is your recollection?
Sean, I am not opening a trial here I have been…
It's a legitimate question to ask you. Because you came here to talk about...
...this whole case and why you 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.
Well it actually does Sean, and I tell you why it was matter, because I believe in our judicial system in this country, and I believe the proper place for that is the Four Courts and…
But you're not going there now.
Sean, let me tell you why I'm not going there. So 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.
...just go back to the bottles.
...let me just, can I just say this, Sean to you, 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 partialially leaked document…
Now hold on now..
...that was not finalised.
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.
He should know better. It was a live case.
You had Micheal Martin, you had Brendan Howlin...
He should know better too, without fact, these people should know better without fact. These are legislators...
But you are an irresistible target. Now what I want to go back to is..
Absolutely. Hands up to that.
...how can you sit on a swing and hold bottles in your hand and presume you won't fall?
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.
Explain one thing to me…
That's not my attitude..
...in what way....
...three weeks later I went through intensive physio for three weeks, and as somebody, it's well documented that I am an avid runner. It is well documented out there, I've never hidden from that. And running is a cornerstone of my general well being 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 could I do it. Now I paid the price for it that night, and I regretted doing it.
So you're confirming that within three weeks of this happening...
I never denied that I put that on my social media.
I'm not suggesting you did, but first of all, sorry, clarify one thing, the date on which this happened, because...
The date is wrong on the affidavit and I have instructed my solicitors to correct that.
Okay, so it was actually the 10th of July and not the 13th.
The Friday, yeah.
Okay. So then three weeks later after intense physio you ran in a 10k...
and pain medication
...and ran a good time. But is it not the case that in your statement of claim you said that you weren't able to do any running for three months?
No, yes sorry it is in the claim and that is wrong because, and I've instructed, and this, you see 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 it going to a judge, and a judge can adjudicate in due course on that. So I was the one who put it on my social media. I had nothing to hide here.
I, Sean, you know, me as somebody up front and with integrity.
But just tell me as well, I mean, you were at a festival, a music festival ,within a week of this happening?
I went to Marley 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. You know, 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'm held to a higher standard. I fully accept that. But I also expect due process.
Of course. Tell me this much Maria Bailey. In what way do you believe the hotel was negligent in this?
Sean that would have been for a judge to adjudicate. That is not for you or me that would have been…
I just want you to tell me I want you to explain to me.
Sean, I'm not a legal person. I took legal advice on this. And I put every faith in that legal system. And I was told I had a clear cut case.
Do you believe that the hotel should have had a supervisor there?
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, 'Do you know what is this worth the hassle? Is it worth the hassle?' Because to be honest, I just want to get on with my life and I was told you have nothing to fear, and I distinctly asked when would 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.
But why have a supervisor at a swing?
Sean, that is a legal, look, this is Michael McDowell being ridiculous here. This case was a live case he was being subjudice and he should have known better.
The fact is though it's out there, it's out there, now…
Yeah but it's out there and Sean this is what we have to...
These are the questions…
...can we roll this back a little bit here, right? Because, in my 15 years elected one week, one week of my career, somebody has tried to character assassinate me and my family, and the invasion of privacy that I have had, and they're trying to negate all the good work that I have done and I am so passionate about my job. I am not bowing down to keyboard warriors and bullies.
But it's not just keyboard warriors, you have brought this on your own head.
Sean, I did nothing wrong. I am fully entitled if I was injured to bring a legitimate case.
If you have filed court documents suggesting that you weren't able to run for instance, for three months..
They have been amended Sean,
... and it turns out that you had been running within three weeks and running a pretty good time..
Yeah well not not for me but yeah.
This raises questions in the public mind presumably, you know, you had some input into the, you gave information to the to the legal advisor.
You're filling out an affidavit three years after the incident Sean, right? And 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..
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…
Sean it was my medical expenses that are verified. You're only talking six, seven thousand here, I've absorbed those costs already.
Do you have private medical insurance?
Yes, I do.
So why get the hotel to pay those medical expenses?
Because the hotel offered to pay, and your private medical doesn't cover your entire medical costs. Everybody knows, Sean, look, I don't doubt myself, I know exactly who I am. Okay? I have always been somebody who shoots straight, who plays on a level playing field here. 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'd great support because I just 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 am a public figure, my family are not.
That's the reason why, for instance, you are a public figure, you had the chance to stand up and be a bigger person and say..
Sean I was hurt. I was genuinely hurt, like anybody with a 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 absolutely am regimental…
Nobody questioning whether you were hurt or not the question is…
But then that is the answer isn't it?
....where does the responsibility lie for that hurt?
And that...a judge, a judge. Our judicial system is in the Four Courts. It is not judge, jury and executioner 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?
Coming right up to yesterday, the Taoiseach said on the 'This Week' program, 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?
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 to this being leaked, that this wasn't a deliberate attempt to have massive, massive impact in the last week of an election on this party. You know, yesterday was a day and the day before the Greens did absolutely well, a clear message was sent to us to act faster on this issue, in my own constituency we retained the seats that we have in my own constituency.
So you're saying therefore you didn't do the party reputation damage?
No I didn't say that, what he said was it would be hard to quantify. Sean, I'm a long time in politics. Look, I looked at the exit polls. And the main reason that people vote for local politicians and local elections, not normally really 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 reasons that people voted for local candidates.
Well that's true but for instance, there are two things cited where Fine Gael are 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 appears not have come down well, but can I ask you this? It's reported in the Independent, which broke the story last week..
Yeah the same journalist.
...it says that 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.
Yeah, like I mean, after the week I've had I'm loathe to believe what I read in the paper.
But nothing has been contradicted, what was in the paper…
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..
But you can talk about it now.
I can talk about it now…
But still won't give us the detail though. You still won't give us the detail on what exactly happened where you holding two bottles…
Sean, Sean, I am not doing try by media over the airwaves here.
I'm just asking you to tell your story
...I have done nothing wrong here
..I'm not saying you did anything wrong.
Sean, Sean, I was hurt. And I am a citizen of this State too.
But what about the fact that, of all the issues, I mean, aside from housing and waiting lists, insurance is a hot political potato.
We've had people sitting in this exact seat in which you're sitting now Maria Bailey, who have been at their wit's end on the verge of tears and sometimes beyond that, at the kind of challenge they face, the bills are getting, because of the compensation culture.
That's because of fraudulent cases, Sean mine wasn't. Let's... like 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.
Did you go to the current Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan about this? Neither you nor she were members of the Dail at the time? Was she involved in advising you in this in any way?
I don't see any reason in answering a question like that, that has nothing to do with this now. This case has dropped. I was with Madigan solicitors.
And was she involved in advising you?
I'm not going to get into that Sean.
Okay, we need to say by the way, again, the hotel denies any liability in this case…
...It's not going to be judged now. But overall, I mean, it's clear that you feel hurt. You feel aggrieved..
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 fulfill my role, what I have…
What about people who say you mightn't be fit to represent Fine Gael because it's a party of integrity, a party of doing the right thing?
Sean, 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'm very clear on being an honest person, and I stand over that. But the silver lining to this for me, because I have been reflecting on an incredibly tough week that I now want to put behind me and move on and get onto what I want to do, especially around regulating homecare, 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 people's mental health, on their well being. But most of all, I've learned 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.
Are you fearful about having to meet the Taoiseach and explain all this?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Do you think you might be thrown out by the Executive Council or suspended?
No I don't Sean. Sean, look, the Taosieach knows me as somebody who's hard working and integral. 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.
Were you not at least naive even thinking that could stay private?
Possibly I was possibly I was Sean.
And finally how do you move on from this?
I'm drawing a line in the sand on this today and I'm moving on. I am back in Oireachtas tomorrow. I have a really busy week. I have the Minister for Housing is coming in around rebuilding Ireland. I chaired the committee of chairs with the Taoiseach is coming into meet that the chairs and I put my head down and I work.
Maria Bailey, Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, thank you very much indeed for coming into studio.
Thank you Sean.