Wednesday 20 November 2019

Kerins case 'challenges core of our democracy'

Angela Kerins arrives at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Angela Kerins arrives at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Victory for former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins in her appeal would undermine "a core principle of our democracy", the State has told the Supreme Court.

The appeal was about the right of members of the Oireachtas to exercise the right to freedom of speech in parliament and not to be made amenable when they did, said Paul Gallagher SC.

The courts were not entitled to "vet or assess" what was said in parliament or its committees and particularly so in an inquiry Ms Kerins was not compelled to attend, he said. The "form of mental restraint" members would have to exercise if the courts could do so was inconsistent with freedom of speech.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was entitled to ask questions of Rehab personnel over whether the State was getting value for public monies being paid to Rehab, he said.

The regulation of the PAC hearings was a matter for the Oireachtas, and its Committee for Procedure and Privileges brought the PAC hearings concerning Rehab to an end.

Earlier, Mr Gallagher reiterated his side's sincere sympathies over the illness and difficulties experienced by Ms Kerins but stressed that his clients did not accept responsibility for those.

Ms Kerins has claimed her experience before the PAC caused her such distress she attempted to take her life.

A seven-judge Supreme Court is hearing Ms Kerins's appeal over the High Court's rejection of her claim she was entitled to damages and other reliefs for breach of her personal rights by the PAC at two hearings in 2014 concerning Rehab where questions were asked about her €240,000 salary.

The PAC argued it was entitled to scrutinise how public funds were spent when some €83m public monies were paid annually to Rehab companies.

The appeal continues.

Irish Independent

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