The issue, which was raised during the Dáil Public Accounts Committee grilling yesterday, relates to Complete Eco Solutions.
The firm’s three founding directors and shareholders are Angela Kerins’s brother, Joseph McCarthy; husband, Sean Kerins; and her predecessor as Rehab chief executive, the long-time Fine Gael senior adviser Frank Flannery.
Details first revealed in current affairs magazine Phoenix and confirmed at yesterday’s hearing, show that in late 2008 one of the disability charity’s subsidiaries, Rehab Recycle, put forward the idea of importing coffins from China.
The business plan stated the coffins could be brought to Ireland at a cost of €100-€150 each, before being assembled by Rehab employees.
In 2009, it was projected the plan could bring up to €100,000 for the charity the following year, with the profit potentially rising in future periods.
In late 2009, Rehab Recycle officials were told not to go ahead with importing the coffins directly, but to instead bring in the items via Complete Eco Solutions.
This firm was founded by Mr Kerins, Mr McCarthy and Mr Flannery in November 2009, and said importation would cost €400. The plan, described as a “pilot”, was eventually dropped.
During the PAC meeting Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald asked Ms Kerins about the deal and if the senior charity official was “uncomfortable with the notion of family members having a commercial relationship with Rehab, given your position”.
The Rehab chief executive replied that she “would always be uncomfortable, to the degree that I absented myself from any decision”.
“To the best of my knowledge these folks were helping the organisation [Complete Eco Solutions was helping Rehab Recycle] to develop that business, but the only involvement was in that pilot stage,” she said.
Ms Kerins stressed she had no involvement in the plan due to the closeness of some of the individuals.
Previous reports show she received an e-mail entitled “Coffin business plan” from Rehab’s director of enterprises, Michael Horgan, on December 18, 2009, which read: “Attached please find further documents for discussion at our meeting this afternoon.”
Further questions on the subject, and unrelated pay and pension issues, were not possible as Mr Flannery did not attend the PAC meeting, despite a specific request for him to do so.
While the PAC repeatedly attempted to clarify the no-show, Ms Kerins did not confirm whether she had passed the message on to her predecessor.