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Thursday 22 August 2019

FG hunt for source of Bailey swing fall story 'inappropriate' - NUJ

Maria Bailey, who dropped court case
Maria Bailey, who dropped court case

Journalists' union officials have branded attempts by Fine Gael to find the source of the story of TD Maria Bailey's personal injury claim as "entirely inappropriate".

An investigation ordered by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is probing whether the Herald and Irish Independent became aware of the case through political contacts.

This newspaper revealed that Ms Bailey was suing The Dean Hotel as a result of injuries she claimed were sustained when she fell from a swing at the property in July 2015.

Race

However, the Dun Laoghaire TD dropped the case after it was revealed she ran a 10km race within three weeks of the incident. Court papers had alleged she wasn't able to run "at all" for three months.

The controversy caused outrage within Fine Gael leading Mr Varadkar to appoint a barrister to "establish all the facts" around the action.

However, it has now emerged that the probe by senior counsel David Kennedy has expanded into trying to uncover the potential source of the story.

Ms Bailey has alleged the story was leaked in a "methodical" and "well orchestrated" way that was "pre-planned to cause maximum damage". The Herald will not be co-operating with the Fine Gael probe, a move that has now been backed by the National Union of Journalists.

The Irish secretary of the NUJ, Seamus Dooley, said that the Government party should not expect reporters to divulge sources. "It is not unreasonable to expect that the focus of the investigation would be the conduct of a TD and whether her behaviour was consistent with her office and the party code of ethics," he said.

"The request for media assistance in revealing the source of the leak is entirely inappropriate at a number of levels."

Mr Dooley added that any journalist who cooperated with such a request would compromise their ability to do their job in the future.

Seamus Dooley
Seamus Dooley

"The investigation into Deputy Bailey may now turn into an investigation into a media leak about the investigation into the original media leak.

"Hopefully this will not happen and the focus will return to a story of public interest.

"A counsel-led investigation into sources is not appropriate."

He noted that if Ms Bailey had an issue with the reporting of the story, she could make a case to the Press Council.

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