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Saturday 14 December 2019

Flanagan refuses to back 'Swing-gate' TD Bailey for re-election

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has refused to back Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey to run for the party in the next general election.

Ms Bailey has faced growing calls from within Fine Gael not to run for re-election in Dun Laoghaire following the Swing-gate controversy.

Mr Flanagan is the first cabinet minister to comment on Ms Bailey's re-election bid, which he repeatedly declined to endorse in an interview with the Herald.

Sacked

The Laois TD said Ms Bailey, who was sacked as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee last month, had paid a "hefty price" for the controversy over her now-withdrawn personal injury claim against a Dublin hotel for falling off a swing in 2015.

"I think the Maria Bailey case was unfortunate. I acknowledge that Maria Bailey has made some serious errors of judgment and I think she has paid for that by way of the sanction," he said.

However, Mr Flanagan refused repeatedly to be drawn on whether Ms Bailey should be allowed to run again.

"I am not part of an investigative process, I am not a member of the national executive, I was for in excess of 15 years," he said.

"I am a former party chief whip, I am a former party chairman, I am a player on the team, I am not a selector. I don't decide," he said.

He said it was a matter for the local constituency organisation and the Fine Gael national executive as to whether Ms Bailey should be allowed to run.

However, when asked for his own view, Mr Flanagan said: "I don't have a view on other constituencies. I go before my own constituency convention."

TD Maria Bailey
TD Maria Bailey

When pressed, he added: "It's not a matter for me."

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd broke ranks last month to publicly call on Ms Bailey not to run for re-election.

A senior Fine Gael source said at the time that Mr O'Dowd's views were shared by many in the party.

"She's damaging us across the country," the senior figure said.

Mr Flanagan said he believed the matter had now been concluded.

"Maria Bailey made a number of errors of judgment," he said. "There was an investigation, an internal investigation, I didn't see the report. I wasn't part of the report.

"As a result of that report she was sanctioned. It was a public sanction."

Fine Gael's election tickets are being reviewed by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, and party sources have acknowledged that Ms Bailey's candidacy could hang in the balance.

Any decision to remove her from the ticket would be taken by Fine Gael's national executive.

Ms Bailey was selected to run alongside Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell-O'Connor and councillor Barry Ward in June last year.

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