Saturday 1 November 2014

Leo Varadkar: Kerins and Flannery should appear before committee

* Transport minister Leo Varadkar says both Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins 'should' appear before Dail committee
* Former Rehab bosses Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins will be compelled by law, if necessary, to come before the Public Accounts Committee

John Mulligan, John Downing and Philip Ryan

Published 10/04/2014 | 02:30

Rehab boss Angela Kerins Photo: Collins
Rehab boss Angela Kerins. Photo: Collins

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar says former Rehab bosses Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins should appear before the PAC.

"I think they should. Anyone who is involved in spending public money who is asked to attend the PAC should do so," Mr Varadkar said earlier today.

"I understand that Angela Kerins is unwell and I don't think anyone would expect anyone who is ill or unwell to appear before a committee, but perhaps she'll be able to do so in due course."

When asked if the pair should be compelled to appear using new legislation, the minister replied: "That's really a matter for the committee."

Meanwhile the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), John McGuinness, said both will be compelled by law if necessary to appear before the committee.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) response came as both former Rehab chief executives announced they would not attend today's hearing which will further examine the charity's funding and the more than €80m in taxpayers' money which it received last year.

Both Mr Flannery and Ms Kerins yesterday wrote to the PAC outlining their reasons for not attending this morning's hearing at which senior Rehab bosses will definitely be attending.

In his letter, Mr Flannery said he stood down as Rehab chief executive in 2006 and this meant he could not answer many of their questions.

Ms Kerins said her decision not to attend was based on medical advice due to illness.

Mr McGuinness admitted today that answering questions to the PAC "is not a pleasant experience" but he said he doesn't accept that the questioning has taken a toll on her health.

He told RTE's Morning Ireland he believes the PAC has been "very fair" to witnesses.

But he added: "we did not get the frank and full disclosure [in the first meeting]."

Mr Flannery's decision is a blow to Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he is a long-time strategic adviser to Fine Gael and only quit on March 10 last as campaign director for the forthcoming European Parliament and local council elections.

As late as yesterday afternoon, the Taoiseach was insistent that both Mr Flannery and Ms Kerins should attend the PAC, but last night Mr Kenny said little about the latest development.

"The Taoiseach has expressed his view on this matter on a number of occasions," a spokesman said.

The PAC met last night to consider the letters of refusal and afterwards chairman John McGuinness said the members rejected all the main assertions made by Mr Flannery and Ms Kerins.

"We have a job to do to find out what they were paying out from the €80-plus million they have been receiving from the taxpayer.

"Both these people have a long association with Rehab and they're part of the job we have to do," Mr McGuinness, a Fianna Fail TD, told the Irish Independent.

POWERS

"If necessary we will use our powers of compellability to ensure they appear before the committee.

Clerk of the committee Ted McEnery last night wrote to Mr Flannery describing his reasons for not attending today's hearing as "nothing short of contemptible".

He also wrote to Ms Kerins to say the committee looked forward to hearing her evidence, should it be necessary, after she recovers from her recent illness.

Irish Independent

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