Wednesday 7 December 2016

Pac wants a review of its powers over Kerins case

Shane Phelan and Tim Healy

Published 09/06/2016 | 02:30

'Legal observers said the request by Pac would significantly widen the scope of the case beyond the committee’s treatment of Ms Kerins and could lead to findings on how committees should operate' Stock photo: Getty
'Legal observers said the request by Pac would significantly widen the scope of the case beyond the committee’s treatment of Ms Kerins and could lead to findings on how committees should operate' Stock photo: Getty

A legal case being taken by former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins could have major ramifications for the way Oireachtas committees deal with witnesses and make findings in future.

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Lawyers for the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (Pac), which is being sued by Ms Kerins over how she was treated during a hearing in 2014, have asked the High Court to examine its jurisdiction and powers of inquiry.

The significant move could see the court re-examining several issues already covered by the Abbeylara judgment in 2002, which found Oireachtas inquiries did not have the power to make findings of fact or expressions of opinion adverse to the good name of citizens.

Legal observers said the request by Pac would significantly widen the scope of the case beyond the committee's treatment of Ms Kerins and could lead to findings on how committees should operate.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said Pac was effectively arguing for a "root and branch examination" of very fundamental issues concerning its jurisdiction.

The case, which is due to get under way next month before a three-judge division of the High Court, is expected to hear evidence from a number of senior Government figures.

Ms Kerins claims she was subject to "a witch hunt" during a seven-hour appearance before the committee in February 2014.

Irish Independent

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