Saturday 14 December 2019

Former Docklands chair refuses to appear at PAC

Professor Niamh Brennan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Professor Niamh Brennan. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Daniel McConnell

The former chairperson of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) is refusing to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is investigating the scandal-hit organisation.

Professor Niamh Brennan said she fears the committee's work has become "unfairly and inappropriately adversarial and personalised".

She has written to the committee saying she cannot see any purpose or benefit in her appearing before the committee to give oral evidence, as demanded by committee members.

Her concerns come in the wake of a refusal of former Rehab bosses Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery to appear before the committee earlier this summer.

PAC members are eager to hear from Prof Brennan in order to conclude its investigations into the €412m Irish Glass Bottle site debacle, which has so far cost the taxpayer €52m.

The stand-off is revealed in correspondence - seen by the Sunday Independent - sent between Prof Brennan and the PAC in recent days.

Prof Brennan took over as chairperson of the DDDA in 2009 after the deal collapsed.

She argued that the committee should "first seek to inquire and establish the primary facts" of what happened in relation to the Glass Bottle site purchase, before it examines what happened during her chairmanship.

In a strident letter sent on July 31, Prof Brennan took strong issue with what she called "inappropriate and personal attacks" made on her under evidence at a previous hearing of the PAC by other DDDA officials. She disputed claims by one DDDA official that she had questions to answer as to how she carried out her functions.

"I have no questions to answer," she said. "The Comptroller and Auditor General positively commented on the work of the authority under my chairmanship."

She also referred to praise from former Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who noted reforms carried out by the DDDA and acknowledged Prof Brennan's contribution and expertise

Prof Brennan also said she has concerns about the manner in which some of the committee's hearings have been conducted. As a result, she said she is reluctant to appear before it to give evidence.

She said: "The combination of personal attacks, factually incorrect evidence provided to the committee and threats made in the event that I appear before the committee heighten my concerns that the committee's proceedings have become unfairly and inappropriately adversarial and personalised at the instance of some witnesses."

In a written response, the committee said it had been frustrated in finalising its investigations.

"Key players had left the organisation and the records show that the committee felt that the witnesses were coached so as not to stray from certain lines of evidence. The PAC has already agreed that yours should be the final evidence it takes prior to concluding its considerations," the PAC letter added,

Sunday Independent

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