From left: Maria Bailey, Kate O’Connell and her sister Mary Newman-Julian
On RTÉ’s Today with Miriam, Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell commented on why she changed her Facebook photograph moments after her friend and party colleague Maria Bailey did an interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ about swinggate in May.
Ms O’Connell’s ‘cover photo’ on Facebook had been a picture of her with her sister Mary Newman-Julian, a Fine Gael election candidate for Tipperary, and Ms Bailey.
Her comments on RTÉ this morning follow Minister for Communications Richard Bruton saying yesterday that he would support Ms Bailey if she decides to run in the next election and reports that Fine Gael are considering adding two councillors to the ticket in Ms Bailey’s constituency of Dun Laoghaire.
Ms O’Connell couldn’t confirm if it is the case that Fine Gael are planning this strategy – saying she’s not on the national executive.
But she added it would be “bizarre to have that many people on the ticket”.
She said, in terms of the “democratic process”, that “if anybody thinks somebody shouldn’t, anybody in Ireland isn’t allowed to run for parliament, I think you’re actually cutting into democracy”.
But she refused to give her opinion on whether or not Ms Bailey should run again.
Ms O’Connell then had this exchange with Ms O’Callaghan:
Miriam O’Callaghan: “And Kate, remember, you Kate, I think, took Maria Bailey down off your Facebook page, hours after Seán’s interview on this show was heard.”
Kate O’Connell: “Well, actually I discussed that with Maria and such was the level of abuse my social media page was getting, it wasn’t actually, I never commented before now, but it was more to protect what my staff were facing.
“I spoke to Maria Bailey pretty much every day, every few days, since this crisis, if you want to call it that, happened. Yes, she made an error of judgement. Yes, obviously, that Seán O’Rourke interview…but I would very much echo Richard Bruton’s words yesterday, you know, are we going to have, you know, a tick box list of who can and who can’t run for Dáil Éireann.”
O’Callaghan: “So were your staff getting abuse?”
O’Connell: “My staff?”
O’Connell: “Of course, my staff were. And as for the people working with Maria Bailey. They have endured a huge amount of abuse. And these are people who are working, as you know Daragh [O’Brien, Fianna Fáil TD] they’re not on great wages, Dáil staff, and they are dealing with, and they have to get up and go to work every day and get huge social media abuse.
“So I laughed at how it could make a story in a newspaper – my profile picture. But it was very much to protect staff and I think if Maria Bailey wants to run, it’s her decision. She’s a hard-working TD, she had to resign from an awful lot of committees, she does an awful lot of work in Leinster House.”
Listen back in full here
Previously: Time Waster Of The Day