PAC ‘knew’ Kerins probe was ‘off limits’

Angela Kerins, former Rehab CEO, yesterday. Picture: Courtpix

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) knew, before former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins appeared before it two years ago that the manner in which it proposed to inquire into the affairs of the Rehab group was “off limits”, the High Court has been told.

Members of PAC knew or should have known of the standing orders governing its hearings and Ms Kerins’ side believed PAC also received legal advice in January 2014, one month before Ms Kerins’ appearance that it had no jurisdiction to question her as it proposed, John Rogers SC said.

His case was PAC had an agenda to “go after”, and impose accountability on, Ms Kerins and that had occurred in two public hearings of PAC on February 27 and April 10, 2014.

Without any notice to Ms Kerins, accusations were publicly made against her by PAC members as if they were proven.

Mr Rogers for Ms Kerins, was yesterday continuing his opening of a hearing to decide PAC’s jurisdiction to conduct the hearings. That issue, with implications for future PAC inquiries, is central to Ms Kerins’ action against PAC and the State seeking damages for alleged personal injuries and reputational damage based on claims PAC conducted itself unlawfully, showed bias towards her and was guilty of misfeasance in public office.

The hearing is before a three-judge High Court comprising court president, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy.

PAC denies it acted outside jurisdiction and pleads Ms Kerins voluntarily agreed to attend before it on February 27. Due to ill-health, she was not part of a Rehab delegation that attended the April 10 meeting.

Yesterday, Mr Rogers said Independent TD and PAC member Shane Ross was “part of the instigation” of the PAC examination of Ms Kerins. Prior to that, the TD wrote articles saying Rehab was mainly linked to Fine Gael and alleging “top guns” in Fine Gael had moved in to win a delay in Rehab appearing before PAC.

Mr Rogers also said, during the February 27 hearing, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said Ms Kerins referred to lower paid Rehab staff having to accept pay cuts in 2010 in line with those imposed on public sector employees while Ms Kerins said she was privately employed and in a different position.

Ms McDonald said it “jars with me” that “some in Rehab are more equal than others”. Such comments were indicative of how PAC had “slurred” the good name and reputation of Ms Kerins, counsel said. There was no “mystery” about Ms Kerins €234,000 salary which she publicly disclosed prior to February 27, he said.

If PAC had jurisdiction to inquire into the charity sector and payments, that would have to be under a special instrument, counsel said. The case continues.

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