Saturday 3 December 2016

Kerins agreed to appear at PAC voluntarily, court told

Tim Healy

Published 06/10/2016 | 02:30

Angela Kerins, the former CEO of Rehab, arriving at the High Court. Pic: Collins Courts
Angela Kerins, the former CEO of Rehab, arriving at the High Court. Pic: Collins Courts

Former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins appeared voluntarily before an Oireachtas Committee and raised many of the issues she now complains about, a court was told.

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A three-judge High Court is continuing to hear arguments over whether the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had jurisdiction to conduct two hearings concerning public funds paid to Rehab companies.

In closing arguments for the PAC yesterday, Paul Gallagher SC said the case was legally misconceived as an argument over jurisdiction.

But if the court pursued that issue, the PAC had the necessary jurisdiction and any "errors" by it did not carry it outside jurisdiction.

He said Ms Kerins appeared voluntarily before the committee on February 27, 2014, raised many of the issues she now complains about, and told the PAC she was glad to provide information about the services provided by Rehab.

He noted criticism of PAC Chairman John McGuinness over agreeing to meet Ms Kerins before the February 27 hearing.

Mr Gallagher said that meeting was at her request to assist her in advance of the hearing, a step frequently done with others appearing before PAC.

Read more: 'Unfair questions' no basis for Angela Kerins to receive substantial damages - PAC lawyers tell High Court

The meeting was lawful and permissible as PAC had no statutory function.

In reply to Mr Justice Peter Kelly, counsel agreed the meeting was "perhaps unwise".

Beginning closing arguments for Ms Kerins, John Rogers SC said this was an "appalling vista" case. It showed "grievous" damage could be done to the good name and reputation of a person who appeared before a Dáil Committee.

The PAC acted totally without jurisdiction and outside Dáil standing orders in its treatment of Ms Kerins, he argued.

Ms Kerins claims the hearings on February 27 and April 10 2014 amounted to an unlawful "witchhunt" against her outside PAC's jurisdiction.

She claims she was so overwhelmed after the February 27 hearing she attempted to take her life on March 14, with the effect she was unable to attend the April 10 hearing.

She wants damages on grounds including alleged personal injury, loss of reputation and loss of career.

But the State argues the courts should be "very slow" to make any order in the legal challenge by Ms Kerins that might impact on how the Dáil Public Accounts Committee functions.

Maurice Collins SC, for the State, said Ms Kerins's case for damages against the State was grounded on her claim it was vicariously liable for the actions of PAC.

He said the court could not review the PAC in the same way it could review decisions of a lower court or tribunal.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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