herald

Thursday 22 August 2019

Pressure on FG to drop inquiry into source of Bailey story

Maria Bailey's claim is being probed by Taoiseach
Maria Bailey's claim is being probed by Taoiseach

Pressure is mounting on Fine Gael to drop its probe into the alleged leak of documentation relating to Maria Bailey's compensation claim.

A barrister hired by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is endeavouring to find out how information about her fall from a swing in The Dean Hotel found its way into the media.

The inquiry has been criticised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and now Fianna Fail has called for it to be dropped altogether.

Fianna Fail communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley said it "actually beggars belief" that a party of government would seek to undermine media reporting in the public interest.

"I think it defies logic for a political party to expect any media organisation to breach journalistic privilege," Mr Dooley said.

"This is something that has been well established in the courts. It's something that is accepted across society."

He said it would be "more in Fine Gael's line to establish what role, if any, [Culture] Minister Josepha Madigan played in advising her colleague".

A firm of solicitors owned by the minister's brother was representing Ms Bailey. Ms Madigan worked there at the time of the incident but left the firm in June 2017.

Fine Gael has declined to comment on a request from senior counsel David Kennedy for the Herald to reveal its sources.

In correspondence to this newspaper, Mr Kennedy wrote: "I wonder can you tell me how you heard about the case, and obtained a copy of the pleadings?"

The Herald will not be co-operating with an internal Fine Gael probe.

Ms Bailey has alleged information was leaked in a manner that was "pre-planned to cause maximum damage".

The NUJ said that while the Taoiseach might view a polite request for information on sources "as legitimate", it is "entirely inappropriate".

"You don't ask a journalist or media to breach their professional code of conduct or waive their rights for political expediency," the NUJ said.

Fine Gael is facing political calls for the internal inquiry to refocus on the legitimacy of Ms Bailey's claim.

However, the party has not commented beyond a statement that was issued on May 29 announcing Mr Kennedy's appointment.

Failed

Mr Dooley said: "They may have had some defence of not being aware of what the barrister was doing but this has now been in the public domain for a number of days.

"The Taoiseach has failed to address the matter immediately which clearly shows his acceptance of this behaviour."

The report is also expected to delve into the claims made by Ms Bailey in her personal injuries claim.

She has said she only wanted €6,000 to €7,000 in order to cover her medical costs. However, the case was taken in the circuit court, where awards can be as high as €60,000.

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

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

In court papers, she had accused the hotel of negligence, saying the swing was "unsupervised".

The hotel, which is on Harcourt Street, intended to fight the claims up until the case was dropped.

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