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Monday 16 December 2019

FG lawyer is hunting for the person who leaked Bailey's swing compensation claim

Maria Bailey fell off a swing
Maria Bailey fell off a swing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is trying to find out how information about Maria Bailey's compensation claims became public.

An internal Fine Gael probe is looking for the person Ms Bailey has claimed set out to cause "maximum damage".

The Dun Laoghaire TD dropped her lawsuit over a fall from a swing after it emerged she had run a 10km race within three weeks of the incident.

Mr Varadkar and a string of senior ministers have said the controversy in the final days of the local election campaign hurt the party at the polls.

He hired senior counsel Dav-id Kennedy "to establish all facts" around the case before deciding whether Ms Bailey should be sanctioned by the party.

His report was expected to be finalised last week, but sources say it could be a fortnight before it is delivered to the Taoiseach.

It has emerged that as part of his work, Mr Kennedy is trying to find out if somebody within Fine Gael was involved in leaking the story.

In correspondence to the media, he asked to know how details of the case and court documents came to light.

"I wonder, can you tell me how you heard about the case, and obtained a copy of the pleadings?" Mr Kennedy wrote.

On May 20, it was first reported that a case recorded as "Maria Bailey Ryan v Holtend Limited trading as The Dean Hotel" was listed for mention in the Circuit Court County Registrar that day.

Compensation awards in this court can be as high as €60,000.

It was established that the first-time TD's claim was based on an incident while she was on a night out with friends in July 2015.

Ms Bailey fell backwards off of an indoor swing. She was holding a bottle of beer and reaching for a friend's drink at the time.

Dirty

In the Circuit Court proceedings, she accused the hotel of negligence, saying the swing was "unsupervised" and there were no signs telling patrons how to safely use it.

During her now infamous radio interview with RTE's Sean O'Rourke a week after the story broke, Ms Bailey suggested she was the target of political dirty tricks.

"This was methodical. This was well-orchestrated, this was pre-planned to cause maximum damage, and I am the collateral damage in the end term of that," she said.

However, Ms Bailey refused to disclose who she believed was behind the leak or why.

"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," she said.

When asked for a comment on why Fine Gael is now searching for the person who leaked the information, a party spokesperson referred to a statement they issued on May 29.

It noted that Ms Bailey had agreed to participate fully with the internal review and that the party "will not be making any further comment at this time".

The investigation is also understood to be looking at what role, if any, Culture Minister Josepha Madigan played in the lawsuit.

Ms Bailey was represented by her brother's law firm, where the minister worked at the time of the incident.

During her radio interview, Ms Bailey said she "put every faith in the legal system, and I was told I had a clear-cut case".

Ms Madigan has refused to say whether she provided any advice to her colleague before leaving the law firm in June 2017.

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