Tuesday 27 September 2016

Medical evidence to be central in Kerins's legal case against Dáil committee

Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30

Angela Kerins on the way to a hearing of the Dáil’s PAC. Photo: Tom Burke
Angela Kerins on the way to a hearing of the Dáil’s PAC. Photo: Tom Burke

Medical evidence is set to play a crucial role in a legal action taken by former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins against the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

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The case, which begins today, will hear claims that Ms Kerins was hospitalised for 10 days in 2014 after being questioned by the committee about her €240,000-a-year salary and governance issues at the charity and commercial group.

Ms Kerins claims she suffered "a collapse in health" following the committee hearing, which lasted for seven hours. The former chief executive has alleged the Dáil spending watchdog acted in a way that was "unfair, unlawful and prejudicial".

She is seeking damages, alleging she suffered personal injury, lost her job and had her constitutional rights breached as a result of the conduct of the committee.

The claims have been denied by the PAC, which maintains it was entitled to question her in circumstances where 81pc of Rehab's income in Ireland came from State contracts. The committee has also argued that it cannot be sued for damages over matters said under privilege.

The case, which is taking place in a specially convened three-judge High Court, is expected to last a week-and-a-half and is likely to be split into two parts - one to examine the powers of the committee and the other to assess whether it is liable for damages.

Lawyers for the PAC have asked the court to conduct a "root-and-branch examination" of its jurisdiction and powers of inquiry. Informed sources said it was unlikely that any of the politicians who sat on the committee at the time would be called to give evidence.

Both sides are being represented by former attorney generals, with John Rogers SC acting for Ms Kerins and Paul Gallagher SC for the committee.

Ms Kerins unexpectedly stood down from her job at the charity and commercial group in April 2014, just weeks after her appearance before the committee.

At a previous court hearing, Mr Rogers alleged that Ms Kerins had been subjected to "vicious" and "personal attacks" by some members of the PAC, both at a hearing she attended in February 2014 and at a later one that April, which she was too ill to attend.

As a result of the first hearing she had "a collapse in health" and was hospitalised from March 2 to 11.

He said her employment with Rehab "ceased" following discussions with officers of the group, on April 4.

Ms Kerins had worked with Rehab since 1992 and became its chief executive in 2006.

Irish Independent

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