speaking out | 

Maria Bailey opens up on the abuse she received in the wake of ‘swing gate’

Former Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Former Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey has spoken about the abuse she received in the wake of the infamous ‘swing gate’ controversy.

She hit the headlines in May 2019 when it emerged she had started legal proceedings against the Dean Hotel on Dublin’s Harcourt Street.

Ms Bailey claimed she injured her back after falling off a swing in Sophie’s restaurant in 2015.

She later withdrew her case after a public backlash when details of the claims were made public in 2019.

She then faced further criticism, including from her own party colleagues, when she took part in a now-infamous radio interview with then RTE Today host Sean O’Rourke.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ms Bailey revealed the how the abuse took a great toll on her and her family.

"I was at the epicentre of persistent abuse over the course of approximately nine months,” she said. “And that just takes a toll on anybody who's involved in that, whether that's myself directly or the people around me, by abuse, ridicule, intimidation and it was exceptionally stressful and isolating.

"You find that you're in the middle of a pile on and you're a lone voice in a very loud pile of abuse and the volume is so loud that the truth and facts can't be heard or don't want to be heard.

"What warrants nine months of abuse whether it be online or in person?

"The abuse I received was in relation to documents that I didn't consent to be made public. I was silenced in fear and I'm not anymore."

Ms Bailey had previously explained how the controversy “blew up out of nowhere at a very vulnerable time in my life and my family’s life”.

Her father, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Cllr John Bailey died in July 2019 just two months after being elected during the May local elections.

However, despite the negative commentary, she maintains that, looking back over her time in politics, the experience in later years wouldn't have stopped her from entering public life even if she knew what to expect.

She also believes such abuse was not specific to gender or occupation, rather "it happens in many walks of life".

"But I do think the content women receive is of a different nature, of a more personal or sexual nature and that can be really hard," she added.

"When you're in politics you absolutely accept the rough and tumble, debates, people's opinions and critical opinions, that's part and parcel of it but when it’s something in your private life and when the full facts haven't been put out there, nor should they be, that pile on is too much.

"You seek support and it's not available to you from the sources you think it should be but that's OK because there are other supports out there and that's what people need to know, that they're not alone in this."

She added that she was “delighted” that the Chief Executive of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland told an Oireachtas committee this week how new, proposed legislation will attempt to prevent material being posted online with the potential to intimidate, threaten, persecute or humiliate people.

“Finally, there will be compliance and regulation that will be put in place and these online platforms will no longer be self-regulatory, that there will be an online safety commissioner involved and there will be recourse," she added.

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices