Health committee quiz option for former Rehab chiefs

Former Rehab chiefs who refuse to give further evidence to the Public Accounts Committee have been offered the opportunity to be questioned by the health committee instead.

While insisting he was reluctant to intervene in the “war” raging over the PAC’s probe into Rehab, health committee chairman Jerry Buttimer said such a move could get to the bottom of outstanding issues if the disability charity’s ex-chief, Angela Kerins, agreed.

“I don’t want to wade into the war between the PAC and the different witnesses,” said Mr Buttimer. “I would certainly have the viewpoint that if the issues fall within... our remit, then the potential of witnesses coming before us is always available.

“In the case of the people we’re alluding to... they will be afforded an opportunity to give their side of events, and where we can then tease out the issues surrounding this.”

The offer came as the head of the long-awaited banking investigation insisted it would not be damaged by the row over how Rehab chiefs were questioned by TDs. Ciarán Lynch, chairman of the investigation, dismissed fears a legal challenge against the PAC by Ms Kerins could impact on the inquiry into the financial crash.

Ms Kerins has launched a High Court action for compensation arising out of the PAC inquiry into Rehab, which she claims amounted to a “witch-hunt.”

However, Mr Lynch said the banking probe was a different forum, and could not be banned from compelling witnesses to appear, as the PAC was by Oireachtas watchdogs when it sought powers to force Ms Kerins to give more evidence.

“There is no relevance to the banking inquiry, as the PAC has to seek permission to compel each witness, while the banking inquiry has the powers of compelability in its terms of reference,” said Mr Lynch.

Claims by Ms Kerins that she had been given a rough time by the PAC were challenged by its chairman, John McGuinness, who insisted the committee had not been aggressive.

“There is a robust exchange between members and officials. These are not findings against individuals, they are governance issues,” Mr McGuinness told Newstalk Breakfast.

The Fianna Fáil TD rejected claims by Frank Flannery, former Rehab chief and former adviser to Enda Kenny, that the committee behaved in an “illegal, abusive operation”.

Mr McGuinness insisted the committee had acted properly.


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