Leo Varadkar has told a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs that an internal review to “establish the facts” in the Maria Bailey saga will take two weeks.
Several sources said the Taoiseach also gave an indication that by-elections to fill seats vacated by new MEPs will not happen, and a general election is more likely this year.
“He told the room at the next election that all our faces will be on the ballot paper, which we all took as by-elections will not happen,” one source said.
At the meeting, Mr Varadkar told TDs and senators that the “short and snappy” review will be completed by barrister David Kennedy within two weeks.
He spoke for just over a minute on the issue, and warned colleagues to remember Ms Bailey is a person with a family when briefing on the matter, in public and in private.
Despite calls for her to be sacked as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee, Ms Bailey has so far escaped sanction.
Mr Varadkar met her yesterday to discuss the damage done to the party over her personal injuries case taken against the Dean Hotel after she fell from a swing in 2015. She has agreed to co-operate and participate fully in the review.
Ms Bailey caused fury among her own by her decision to wait until polls closed in the local and European elections to drop the case and by her
In a statement, her party confirmed she met the Taoiseach: “In relation to a civil case which Deputy Bailey is withdrawing from the courts, Fine Gael is undertaking an internal review to establish all facts. The review will be undertaken by David Kennedy, senior counsel. Deputy Maria Bailey has agreed to participate fully with this review,” the statement said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Josepha Madigan, the culture minister, must clarify if she gave advice to Ms Bailey. Independent Alliance member and minister for state, John Halligan, hit out at his Fine Gael colleagues for their treatment of Ms Bailey.
He said that while she handled the situation badly, the treatment by some of her colleagues has been over the top.
“She made a mistake but the time has come to leave her alone. I think I am the only minister talking in support of her. The time for vilifying her is over,” he told the Irish Examiner.
At the Fine Gael meeting last night, Mr Varadkar gave his summation of the local and European elections, highlighting the increase in seats at local level and having the most MEPs.
But it was his comment about the next general election which raised eyebrows. Mr Varadkar in Brussels on Tuesday said he would not cause an early election, but said he could not rule it out.