The Dáil Public Accounts Committee’s questioning of former Rehab Group CEO Angela Kerins about payments of public monies to Rehab seemed based on “some concept of accountability”, the High Court has been told.
PAC engaged in “a frolic” for which it had no mandate and no basis in law, John Rogers, counsel for Ms Kerins, contended yesterday. He said the PAC appeared to think its hearings were necessary as part of an inquiry into the affairs of the charity sector and the justification seemed based on a concept of accountability with Ms Kerins and others from Rehab treated as persons “accounting” to PAC. .
Some PAC members made comments demonstrating bias towards Ms Kerins, he argued.
Bias was evident at a PAC public hearing on February 27, 2014, and “absolutely apparent” at a second hearing on April 10, 2014. The most significant occasions of that came from questions from Independent TD Shane Ross and Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald, he said.
Ms McDonald pursued questions “loaded with suggestions” that Ms Kerins had damaged Rehab and used words expressing “disdain” for Ms Kerins.
The TD also inferred some impropriety by Ms Kerins in relation to a company, Complete Eco Solutions Ltd (a company co-owned by Ms Kerins’ husband from which a Rehab company had in 2010 bought coffins imported from China), counsel said.
Mr Ross pursued a Rehab board member at the April 10 hearing over whether a complaint had been made against Ms Kerins and “outed” there was such a complaint which was a matter “entirely private” to Rehab.
PAC chairman John McGuinness also made comments showed a willingness to condemn Ms Kerins, including describing her conduct as “deplorable”, counsel said.
In proceedings against the members of that PAC and the State, Ms Kerins claims she became so overwhelmed as a result of her treatment on February 27, she tried to take her life on March 14, and was unfit to attend the second hearing. The conduct of both hearings caused her to suffer personal injury, loss of reputation and loss of career, she alleges.
PAC denies her claims, denies it conducted itself unlawfully, showed bias towards her or was guilty of misfeasance in public office. It also denies it is a fact-finding committee and pleads its hearings were in the public interest.
The hearing is aimed at establishing the extent of PAC’s jurisdiction to conduct the hearings before other issues, including any liability to damages, are addressed.
Paul Gallagher, counsel for the PAC, will begin his opening statement today.
The case was due to end tomorrow but will now adjourn to resume in the new law term in October.
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