Monday 19 August 2019

Former PAC chairman refuses to say whether he will apologise to Kerins

Court ruling: Angela Kerins claimed the PAC acted unlawfully, and received an apology from the Ceann Comhairle. Photo: Collins
Court ruling: Angela Kerins claimed the PAC acted unlawfully, and received an apology from the Ceann Comhairle. Photo: Collins

Aine Kenny

Former PAC chairman John McGuinness has refused say whether he will apologise to former Rehab boss Angela Kerins for her treatment at an Oireachtas committee.

On Sunday, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl revealed he had "personally apologised" to Ms Kerins, following a Supreme Court finding that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) "acted unlawfully" in its treatment of her.

The businesswoman claims PAC members knowingly acted outside their remit, seeking commercial information and details of private earnings, rather than inquiring solely into Rehab services paid for by the HSE and Solas.

In the High Court, she claimed to have been subjected to "bullying, harassment and persecution", which led her to attempt suicide.

The Irish Independent attempted to contact every member of the 2014 PAC yesterday to see whether they echoed Mr Ó Fearghaíl's apology. The then-chairman Mr McGuinness, a Fianna Fáil TD, said he had "no comment at this time" when asked whether he too would apologise to Ms Kerins.

Meanwhile, high-profile members of the committee, Transport Minister Shane Ross and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald refused to say whether they would apologise to Ms Kerins.

The two TDs were among the most robust questioners of Ms Kerins when she appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in 2014.

Health Minister Simon Harris also did not respond. A spokesperson for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said "at the time, Minister Murphy stated that the committee was acting outside its remit".

The current chairman of the PAC, Seán Fleming, said Ms Kerins was mistreated and deserved an apology.

Mr Fleming, who was an ordinary member in 2014, said: "I support the Ceann Comhairle's apology on behalf of the Dáil. I think he was right to apologise.

"She was mistreated. I think those who questioned her in an aggressive manner should apologise."

Labour Party senator Ged Nash welcomed the judgment.

"During the PAC proceedings in 2014, I was careful to confine my line of questioning to the matters directly before the committee," he said ­yesterday.

"I am not referenced in the Kerins case judgments. In light of these recent judgments, it is appropriate that the Ceann Comhairle made his remarks on Sunday, and in so doing he should be seen to be speaking on behalf of the Oireachtas."

Irish Independent

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