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Swinggate: Family betrayal and political backstabbing

Last night, Fine Gael members in her Dun Laoghaire constituency voted, in effect, to boot Maria Bailey from the Fine Gael ticket for the next General Election, whenever that might come:

The meeting last night heard from Deputy Bailey and her detractors, with some calling for her removal from the party ticket.

A majority voted in favour of a review of the party’s strategy at the election.

While it doesn’t name Maria Bailey specifically, it’s been taken as a clear sign members in Dun Laoghaire want her removed from the ballot.

The decision will now be considered by Fine Gael HQ – with Minister Paschal Donohoe, who’s director of organisation for the next election, making the call along with the Taoiseach.

Politics is a cold business. So cold, in fact, that amongst those cabinet ministers refusing to defend Maria Bailey ahead of the vote yesterday was her own cousin, the Minister for Health:

Imagine being so devoted to climbing the greasy pole yourself that you’d happily throw your own flesh and blood under the bus for advancement. Nobody would blame Harris for standing up for his own family – in fact, people might appreciate some sign of normality from our deeply bizarre ruling class. But no. It’s no wonder normal people detest politicians the way they do, is it?

Sitting beside Judas Minister Harris there is, of course, Maria Bailey’s solicitor, Josepha Madigan.

Isn’t it absolutely absurd that Bailey herself is facing political oblivion, while the lawyer who looked at the facts of her “case” and advised her to proceed with it sits at the cabinet and skates away scot free?

Let’s be very clear about this, because it’s important: When Maria Bailey fell off that swing, she proceeded to take her case to a solicitor, Josepha Madigan. When you take a case to a solicitor, one of the things that you ask that solicitor is whether they think you have a case at all. In this case, the answer, very clearly, had to be “yes you do”.

The threatening legal letters to the hotel? Maria Bailey didn’t write those. Josepha Madigan, or her staff, did.

The medical reports detailing her supposed injuries? Normal practice is that your solicitor advises you to get those.

You might say, and you would be correct, that the final decision in these matters rests with the client, and not the solicitor. You can get a solicitor to sue anybody for you, if you pay them. But in practice, that’s not how it works, is it? How many of us would spend the time or the money suing somebody if we were told by our own lawyer that it was a bad case and that we would likely lose?

The fact of the matter here is that Minister Madigan, or at the very least, someone in her law firm (though it is very difficult to imagine that she did not at least look personally at her friend’s case) reviewed the papers in the Bailey case and advised her to proceed on the basis that she had a good chance of winning compensation. That turned out to be very bad political advice, but it has also turned out to be pretty immoral legal advice.

So why has Minister Madigan escaped scrutiny in all of this?

If the country has a problem, as we are often told, with frivolous lawsuits, then it certainly has a problem with greedy solicitors pushing those frivolous lawsuits.

In fact, it is not unknown in these cases for the legal costs to dwarf the actual settlement paid out to the alleged victim of an insurance case.

Several years ago, Minister Flanagan’s direct predecessor in that Dáil seat, Alan Shatter, tried to reform the legal profession to reduce legal fees, and was ruthlessly opposed by the legal profession, which is one of the highest donating sectors to political parties. His reforms died.

Now, in cabinet, we have a solicitor who, it is not disputed, advised a colleague to take what is universally agreed to be a frivolous lawsuit against a business. And she appears to be getting away with it, while her client loses her career.

Politics is disgusting, isn’t it?


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