Sunday 18 August 2019

Ex-charity boss calls for Oireachtas reforms after court victory

Angela Kerins. Photo: Collins Courts
Angela Kerins. Photo: Collins Courts
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Former charity boss Angela Kerins wants radical reforms of the Oireachtas introduced on foot of her successful Supreme Court Case against the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Ms Kerins wants TDs to be required to take mandatory professional development courses during their terms of office.

She also wants the Houses of the Oireachtas to examine whether non-elected experts could sit on committees rather than just appear before them.

She also believes there should be robust disciplinary procedures for TDs or senators who breach Oireachtas rules.

She also wants proper grievance hearings for people affected by events in the Dail or Seanad.

Ms Kerins' proposals may be discussed during any future negotiations for damages with the Oireachtas.

"She wants to make this more than about settling for damages because she would like the system radically reformed so no one else has to go through what she has gone through," a friend of Ms Kerins said.

The proposed reforms followed the landmark Supreme Court judgment last week which found the PAC acted unlawfully and outside its remit in its treatment of Ms Kerins during an investigation into the Rehab charity group.

Ms Kerins claimed she was subjected to "bullying, harassment and persecution" by committee members at two hearings in 2014.

She said the trauma of the experience resulted in her attempting to take her own life.

The Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for Ms Kerins to take further High Court action for damages against the Oireachtas. She claims she suffered distress, public humiliation and significant loss of earnings following her appearance at the committee.

In a statement released last week, Ms Kerins said she was "very pleased" with the outcome but said she would not be commenting further until she had considered the judgment in detail with her legal advisers.

She thanked her family, friends and her legal team, which included Eames Solicitors and former attorney general John Rogers SC, for their "unrelenting support and guidance".

"It was an enormous decision for me to take this case and I could not have done it without them," she said.

Speaking at a Dail committee last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised the treatment Ms Kerins, the former chief executive of the Rehab Group, received while appearing before the PAC.

"At the same time I have to confess that I do believe that the previous PAC did treat some witnesses very badly a few years ago," Mr Varadkar said.

"Notwithstanding all the issues around Ms Kerins' salary, I do think that she was badly treated in the way she was treated by the previous PAC," the Taoiseach added.

Ms Kerins did not respond to requests for comment.

Sunday Independent

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