By Pat Flanagan (for the Daily Mirror)
Calls for Maria Bailey to be kicked out of Fine Gael for damaging the party are unfair when she represents everything they stand for... absolutely nothing but themselves.
If anything, the way the Taoiseach has handled the entire sorry affair has given us an insight into how Fine Gael is more worried about the political fallout in the way of votes rather than the fact one of their TDs might be making a dodgy insurance claim.
Ms Bailey’s fall from a swing at the Dean Hotel as she held a bottle of beer while reaching for a bottle of wine has made her a comic celebrity.
There’s a video now doing the rounds that takes the phrase “acting the goat” to new levels while a Dublin hotel has created a cocktail in her honour called “The Swing”.
The Dun Laoghaire deputy even features in a video game where a woman on a swing tries to avoid falling beer and wine bottles while attempting to retrieve a bag of cash.
Bailey claimed she was left injured when she fell off a swing at the hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street, but last weekend she officially dropped her claim.
She was looking for more than €60,000 from the establishment because the swing wasn’t supervised but it later emerged she ran a 10km race three weeks later.
Had the legal action not been reported all would have been fine and dandy but news of a Fine Gael TD looking for 60 grand compo at a time when businesses are being crucified with bogus claims doesn’t look good.
Indeed, just last month Neil McDonnell, chief executive of ISME which represents small and medium enterprises, told the Oireachtas Finance Committee that spiralling insurance costs were forcing companies to close.
In short, it wasn’t the actual claim that worried the Taoiseach and his ministers; it was the fact one of their own was involved in what many believed to be a very dubious insurance claim.
The Taoiseach has claimed Fine Gael colleague Maria Bailey has done the party “reputational damage” after becoming embroiled in a compo claim.
It also exposed Fine Gael as a party which is big on spin but which is actually doing very little to clamp down on insurance fraud and that’s why Ms Bailey is in so much bother.
Had she managed to keep her claim under the radar, there wouldn’t have been a cross word, but as it stands her so-called friends in the party are removing photos of her from their Facebook pages.
It’s not a case of what she did, it’s a case of what she got caught doing.
Mind you, she didn’t help her cause by going on Today with Sean O’Rourke and giving a car crash of an interview which exposed the arrogance and entitlement which runs through her party.
But it was pure entertainment as the story of her accident was picked apart by the presenter and it emerged that even the date of the alleged incident on her sworn statement was wrong.
Listeners heard a woman who is the chairwoman of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing grinning about not being able to go home for three days when her party has helped create the worst housing crisis in our history, where at least 10,400 people have no homes to go to.
Her claim that “humanity has been crossed” by the media will live on longer than her dodgy insurance claim against the Dean.
Tory Boy Leo didn’t like it and party bosses were outraged that RTE didn’t warn them she was going on to make a holy show of herself and Fine Gael.
Imagine the arrogance of a party that feels it has the right to be informed by the national broadcaster of who is appearing on a current affairs radio programme.
Her lack of judgment could certainly be called into question but that wouldn’t necessarily come against her as her boss would be the best in that department.
Apparently the party is undertaking an internal review to establish the facts, which is the usual Fine Gael ploy when they don’t want to make a decision.
But the fact the party is worried about reputational damage when it has overseen the near destruction of the health service and is largely responsible for the worst homelessness and housing crisis in the State’s history tells you all you need to know about it.