€500,000 bill should be paid by PAC, says Kerins
Former Rehab Group chief executive Angela Kerins wants the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to cover her legal costs even though she lost her High Court action against the spending watchdog.
Normally losing parties have to bear the costs of such legal actions, conservatively estimated in this case to be at least €500,000.
But a barrister for Ms Kerins has asked the High Court to direct that the PAC covers her costs.
John Rogers SC also asked that no order be made against his client for the costs of two other successful defendants, the Attorney General and the State.
He argued she should be able to recover her costs from the PAC as it had acted outside its jurisdiction in its dealings with her.
Mr Rogers also claimed the case was unique and of constitutional importance.
His application has been opposed by the PAC, the Attorney General and the State, who are all seeking their costs from Ms Kerins.
The three-judge court, made up of High Court President Peter Kelly, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, said it would decide on the issue at a later date. Ms Kerins (58) stepped down from her €240,000-a-year job in 2014 following an appearance at the PAC.
It emerged during the hearing of her action that she had attempted suicide following the PAC meeting. She unsuccessfully sued for damages and sought declarations that the PAC's activities were unlawful and tainted by bias. Although the court found Ms Kerins's personal and professional reputation had been damaged at the hearing and a subsequent one she did not attend, it ruled that it could not interfere with free speech in parliament, which is protected by Article 15.13 of the Constitution.
Arguing Ms Kerins should not bear the costs of the action, Mr Rogers said his client took the case where there was no established precedent which determined the extent of the immunities enjoyed by Oireachtas committees.
"She was a voluntary and purposeful participant in the procedures of the PAC who ended up having her name sullied by an institution of parliament," he said.
However, Brian Kennedy SC, for the PAC, argued there were no special circumstances in the case to justify departing from the norm that the losing party pay the costs.