Saturday 7 December 2019

I lost €240k job and spent 10 days in hospital after PAC ordeal: Kerins

Ex Rehab boss Angela Kerins
Ex Rehab boss Angela Kerins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

FORMER Rehab Group chief executive Angela Kerins claims she lost her €240,000 job and was hospitalised for 10 days after her "ordeal" giving evidence to the Dail's spending watchdog.

The claim was made as Ms Kerins was given leave to institute legal proceedings against the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In a dramatic move, lawyers for Ms Kerins claimed in the High Court that she had suffered personal injury, had lost her job, and had her constitutional rights breached as a result of the conduct of the committee.

Ms Kerins, who unexpectedly retired early from the charity and commercial group in April, was not in court.

Her counsel, former Attorney General John Rogers SC, claimed in a lengthy submission that the committee had demonstrated on several occasions it was biased against her.

She is now seeking damages after losing her job and suffering illness, he said. Mr Justice John Hedigan said the issues raised by Mr Rogers were "of profound significance" and granted Ms Kerins leave to bring judicial review proceedings. The development came just days after the Dail's rule body, the Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP), decided the PAC would be acting outside its remit if it sought to compel Ms Kerins and her predecessor as Rehab chief executive, Frank Flannery, to give evidence.

Both had been involved in a lengthy stand-off with the committee, alleging it is biased and seeking to operate outside of its powers.

Following yesterday's High Court hearing, legal papers will now be served on the clerk of the Dail and the chief state solicitor. The matter will return to court in November.

The committee was not represented at the hearing.

Speaking yesterday in Donegal, Mr Flannery said he was “not surprised” that Ms Kerins has taken the court action.

He also confirmed that he would not voluntarily appear before PAC.

“I've no intention whatsoever in participating in an illegal, abusive operation such as the PAC were conducting. It has been so determined by the CPP and is now in the High Court and I'll make no further comment on that until we get the result of the High Court action,” he said.

PAC’s chairman John McGuinness said it would “robustly defend” the proceedings and insisted that the committee had always acted within its remit when dealing with Ms Kerins.

Earlier, Mr Rogers told the court Ms Kerins had been subjected to “vicious” and “personal attacks” by some members of the PAC, both at a hearing she attended in February and at a later one in April that 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 has lost her job as a result of these events,” he said, adding that the questioning by the committee had been an “ordeal” and left her “overwhelmed”.

Mr Rogers said: “We say that at this point it is clear the committee cannot proceed. We say that due to bias and misfeasance of public office this committee must be stopped. That is the purpose of the application.”

The court heard Ms Kerins was seeking:

* “An order prohibiting the PAC from further pursuing the accounts of Rehab, insofar as they relate to her.”

* “An injunction restraining the committee from publishing any report which contains findings in relation to her or in any way impugning her good name.”

* “An order expunging the record of a committee hearing where comments were made about her.”

* “An order restraining the PAC from pursuing an application to compel her appearance before the committee.”

* “A declaration that the inquiry is tainted by the bias of individual members of the committee.”

Ms Kerins had worked with Rehab since 1992 and became its chief executive in 2006. In a statement, she said the events surrounding her departure had been “deeply distressing” for her and her family.

“Regretfully the PAC continues to attempt to conduct an unfair, unlawful and prejudicial investigation against me. I have no alternative but to apply to the courts for

Irish Independent

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