Kerins seeks damages over treatment by PAC ‘vultures’

Former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins was assailed by “a pack of parliamentary vultures” when the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was investigating state funding of the organisation, her lawyer told the High Court yesterday.

Ms Kerins also suffered “devastating” injuries as a direct consequence of questioning of her by the PAC on February 27, 2014, John Rogers said.

He was speaking during an application to Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy for an order of discovery of documents Ms Kerins says she needs in advance of her action against the PAC.

In judicial review proceedings, she seeks a number of declarations and orders including one restraining the PAC from further pursuing the examination of Rehab’s accounts insofar as they relate to her employment with that organisation. She is also seeking damages.

The action is against the members of the PAC including the chairman, Deputy John McGuinness, the clerk of Dáil Eireann, the clerk of the PAC, Ireland and the attorney general.

She claims the PAC has conducted itself unlawfully, showed bias towards her, acted outside its remit, and has committed a malfeasance in public office.

Mr Rogers said in advance of attending the February 27 PAC, Ms Kerins had already made a public statement disclosing her salary and yet was subjected to questioning about it at the meeting.

What unfolded was “an excoriating examination” by members of PAC in which a number of references were made about Ms Kerins including her “being stubborn and the like”, counsel said.

As a result, she was “injured and degraded and suffered a significant health setback and when I say significant I mean devastatingly significant injuries”, counsel said. She was hospitalised in early March, initially in Waterford and later in the Beacon in Dublin, he said.

While counsel did not want to get into the detail at this stage, when this case comes to full trial it will be fully particularised and “it will be quite clear the injury was devastating”.

The PAC invited her to return before it on April 10 but she informed them she was unfit to attend. That meeting (April 10) went ahead, attended by a number of other people including the chairman of Rehab, counsel said.

The transcript will show that despite the fact Ms Kerins was unable to attend, what happened “can only be described as an assailing of a citizen by a pack of parliamentary vultures”.

It took Ms Kerins some weeks to come to terms with what had happened and between the first and second PAC meetings, she resigned from her post. Through her solicitors, she asked the Dáil Committee on Procedures and Privileges to examine how PAC had dealt with her, complaining of bias .

Among her claims were that the PAC had no power to investigate the expenditure of monies by a private organisation like Rehab and no power to report on private matters relating to her employment, counsel said.

Shealso claimed PAC was attempting to bully her and to get the chairman of Rehab to ultimately put the blame on Ms Kerins. “It was nothing short of a bullying exercise,” counsel said.

Paul Gallagher, for the defendants, who deny the claims, opposed the application for discovery of documents saying they were not required for Ms Kerins case. The case resumes next week.

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