Maria Bailey (born 21 November 1975) is a former Irish Fine Gael politician who served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency from 2016 to 2020. She served as Chair of the Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government 2016 to 2019. Her career in Dáil Éireann ended after a personal injury controversy known as "swing-gate", which led to her de-selection by Fine Gael as a candidate in the 2020 general election.
February 2016 – February 2020
|Chair of the Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government|
4 April 2016 – 29 July 2019
|Preceded by||New office|
|Born||21 November 1975|
Dalkey, Dublin, Ireland
|Political party||Fine Gael|
|Spouse(s)||James Ryan (m. 2004)|
|Relations||John Bailey (Father)|
|Alma mater||University College Dublin|
A lawsuit by Bailey against the Dean Hotel for alleged injuries, following a fall from an indoor swing in July 2015, attracted controversy and criticism in the media and in the Oireachtas in May 2019. The controversy became known as "swing-gate".
Bailey alleges she injured herself after falling from the swing, and that no instructions in how to use the swing had been provided. The hotel fought the case and maintained that Bailey was holding items in both hands when she fell. The case arose at a time when there is "considerable political focus on personal injury awards and high insurance costs." Independent Senator Michael McDowell, speaking about the case in the Seanad, said: "It does occur to me that we live in a strange world where civil liability can exist in such circumstances but maybe we are only hearing a portion of the evidence. If the Government is serious about driving down the claims culture, we cannot stand idly by when adults lose their seat with two objects, one in each hand, and fall off a swing and then claim there should have been a supervisor looking after them." She had reportedly been holding a beer in one hand and a wine bottle in the other. Leader of the Opposition Micheál Martin said the case "flies in the face of everything being done to keep insurance costs down."
She dropped the compensation claim after it emerged that she had run a 10 km race in under an hour, only three weeks after the fall, despite claiming in court documents that she could not run in the three months after the accident. The Irish Independent also reposted social media pictures of Bailey attending the Longitude Music Festival eight days after the alleged incident.
Two days after polling day in the 2019 local elections, TaoiseachTaoiseach Leo Varadkar said that news of the compensation claim in the week preceding the elections had caused reputational damage to Fine Gael. On 27 May, Bailey gave an interview described by some Fine Gael colleagues as "a car crash" and "the worst political interview I’ve ever heard", on the Today with Seán O'Rourke RTÉ radio programme. In the interview, she said that the media had "crossed the line of public invasion and humanity." Health minister Simon Harris said of the interview "I think it was an unfortunate interview. I think when you withdraw a claim I think it is in and of itself an acknowledgement of the fact that perhaps that claim shouldn’t have proceeded, yet the interview seems to be very much in the space of blaming lots of other people." On 29 May, Fine Gael announced it was going to undertake "an internal review to establish all facts." In July 2019, Leo Varadkar announced that as a result of the review, Bailey was being removed as chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.
In October 2019, a vote of no-confidence was put forward from her own constituency members but was deferred until a later date, while elected colleagues removed her image from their social media platforms. In November 2019, the Fine Gael National Executive voted to deselect her as a candidate in the next general election.
- "Maria Bailey". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
- "Election 2016: Maria Bailey". RTÉ News. 27 February 2016.
- "Maria Bailey". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- Rory Carroll (28 May 2019). "Voters cry foul over politician's fall from swing in Dublin bar". The Guardian.
- "Varadkar on SwingGate: 'Not the norm of any party' to publish internal party inquiry results". Irish Examiner`. 26 June 2019. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
- Phelan, Shane (21 May 2019). "TD 'had items in both hands' when she fell off swing, hotel claims". The Herald. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
- McMorrow, Conor (22 May 2019). "Fine Gael TD criticised in Seanad over swing lawsuit". RTÉ. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- Horgan-Jones, Jack; O'Halloran, Marie (25 May 2019). "Maria Bailey faces call for clarification over swing claim case". Irish Times. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- Collins, Liam; Doyle, Kevin (25 May 2019). "Swing case TD Maria Bailey drops compensation claim against hotel". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
- Lavery, Callum (26 May 2019). "Maria Bailey's personal injury claim caused 'reputational damage' for Fine Gael - Varadkar". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- Finn, Christina (27 May 2019). "Fine Gael reacts to 'car crash' Maria Bailey interview: 'I think she did herself a disservice this morning'". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
- Lehane, Mícheál (29 May 2019). "Fine Gael to carry out internal review in relation to Bailey case". RTÉ. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
- Kelly, Fiach (23 July 2019). "Maria Bailey removed as committee chair over compensation claim". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
- "Maria Bailey facing revolt from local Fine Gael members in wake of swing-fall case". Irish Independent. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
- Sheahan, Fionnan (17 October 2019). "Fine Gael heave against 'swing-gate' TD Maria Bailey begins as no confidence vote tabled in constituency". Irish Independent. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- "Maria Bailey deselected as Fine Gael election candidate". RTÉ. 14 November 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.