Sunday 25 February 2018

Ex-Rehab boss Kerins subjected to 'war' by PAC, court is told

Claim: Angela Kerins Picture: Collins Courts
Claim: Angela Kerins Picture: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

The State owes damages to former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins because the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) subjected her to a "war" in breach of her constitutional rights, the High Court was told.

John Rogers SC, for Ms Kerins, said the State's liability arose because members of the PAC set aside the "rule book", making "devastating", "grievously damaging", "hurtful" and "outrageous" statements about her at two public hearings in 2014.

Those "statements of fact, expressions of opinion and assertions of wrongdoing" were immediately released in the public domain and were "wholly irretrievable", he said.

A three-judge High Court is hearing final arguments concerning whether the PAC had jurisdiction to conduct the two hearings in February 27 and April 2014 concerning public payments to Rehab.

Ms Kerins claims the hearings amounted to an unlawful "witchhunt" against her outside the PAC's jurisdiction and wants damages on grounds including alleged personal injury, loss of reputation and loss of career.

The PAC argues it had jurisdiction to conduct the hearings and is entitled to scrutinise how public funds are spent in a context including that some €80m public monies are paid annually to Rehab companies.

It has also argued Ms Kerins appeared voluntarily before the committee on February 27, raised many of the issues she now complains about, and told it she was glad to provide information about the services provided by Rehab.

Ms Kerins claims she was so overwhelmed by what happened at the February 27 hearing that she later attempted to take her life and could not attend the April 10 hearing.

Yesterday, Mr Rogers argued Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou MacDonald and Independent TD Shane Ross, now a Government Minister, engaged in "egregious" behaviour towards Ms Kerins at the hearings.

"She was bullied, let's call a spade a spade."

The court was told the PAC had argued Ms Kerins had appeared before it voluntarily - but that voluntariness was "prised away" by what happened. The hearings became an "adversarial examination" not at all mandated, he argued.

Maurice Collins SC, for the State, said Ms Kerins had not pleaded a case against it under Article 40.3 of the Constitution (requiring the State vindicate the personal rights of the citizen), and cannot now do so.

Her claim against the State is confined to a claim of vicarious liability for alleged acts of the PAC, which claim is denied, he said.

The hearing is expected to conclude today.

Irish Independent

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