Sunday 21 January 2018

Taxpayer 'could foot legal bill for Rehab inquiry'

Angela Kerins and (inset) Frank Flannery
Angela Kerins and (inset) Frank Flannery
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee has been warned if that it compels Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins to appear before it, without legal powers, the taxpayer will be footing the bill in the courts.

The PAC has been involved in a stand-off with the rule-making body governing committees in Leinster House over the compelling of witnesses.

The Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) has told the committee it will be acting outside the law by bringing in witnesses, such as former Rehab officials. "A mis-step will ultimately cost the taxpayer," a senior source told the Irish Independent.

The PAC disagrees and has formally applied for permission to call Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery before it as part of its investigation into Rehab's finances.

But Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, who chairs the committee, has agreed to get a third legal opinion from a senior counsel. CPP sources say the committee is seeking to protect the taxpayer.

If the PAC compels witnesses to appear with adequate legal backing, the individuals concerned could go to court and win, the CPP's legal advice said.

"The CPP can only operate within the law and the same goes for the PAC. If they go beyond it, they expose the Oireachtas and thus the people, to large and avoidable legal costs," a source said.

The CPP has also been annoyed at the portrayal of its actions as blocking the work of the PAC and suggestions that its decision-making is politically motivated.

A senior source said: "The CPP is a rules committee but it's not a making up the rules committee. The Dail, not the CPP, makes the rules and does so in public. Despite the constant public inferences, it is guided by what it is legally authorised to do and not do by its political make-up."

The Oireachtas committees are restricted by the existing rules, the CPP claims.

Irish Independent

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