Monday 19 February 2018

PAC plans 'robust' fight as ex-Rehab chief starts lawsuit

Angela Kerins. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Angela Kerins. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Members of the Dail's spending watchdog are to be each served with seven folders of legal papers today by lawyers for former Rehab Group chief executive Angela Kerins.

The serving of the papers is the next move in Ms Kerins' action for damages against the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which she has accused of engaging in a "witch hunt" against her.

Ms Kerins' lawyers, Dublin firm Eames Solicitors, contacted Oireachtas authorities yesterday to make arrangements for the papers to be served.

There are 16 defendants in the case, the 13 members of the committee, the clerk of the PAC, the clerk of the Dail, and the Attorney General.

It is understood that much of the material in the legal papers is made up of newspaper and other media extracts, as well as transcripts of comments made in connection with Ms Kerins at committee meetings.

PAC chairman John McGuinness said the committee would begin putting together its defence once the papers are served.

He said he would not be commenting further, apart from reiterating that the proceedings would be "robustly defended".

The Irish Independent understands that the parliament's legal adviser Mellissa English has already compiled a position paper analysing the grounds under which the case is being taken by Ms Kerins.

Earlier this week, Ms Kerins succeeded in an application to bring a judicial review against the committee.

Lawyers for the former Rehab boss claimed in the High Court that she had lost her €240,000 job, been hospitalised for 10 days and had her constitutional rights breached as a result of the actions of the committee.

She claims the committee acted outside its remit while questioning her last February and in comments made about her at a second meeting, which she did not attend, in April.

Ms Kerins, who stood down in April, claims "questioning was pursued in a hostile manner and in a manner which suggests (members of the committee) were engaged in a witch hunt."

She cited questions and comments made by Mr McGuinness and other committee members including Mary Lou McDonald, Aine Collins, Kieran O'Donnell, Robert Dowds, Shane Ross, John Deasy, Simon Harris and Gerald Nash in an affidavit submitted to the court.

Ms Kerins is seeking orders preventing the PAC from further investigating her affairs or from making any findings about her. She also wants the PAC restrained from taking steps to compel her attendance at the committee and is requesting a declaration that its inquiry was tainted with bias against her.

The matter will be back before the courts in November.

Irish Independent

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