PAC to seek powers to force Kerins to appear

Kerins and Flannery refused to appear before recent committee hearing

PAC chairman John McGuinness rejected claims contained in legal letters sent by solicitors  for Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery which raised questions around the committee’s remit. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

PAC chairman John McGuinness rejected claims contained in legal letters sent by solicitors for Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery which raised questions around the committee’s remit. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Fri, May 2, 2014, 01:00


The Public Accounts Committee is to apply to the Oireachtas for a compellability order to require former Rehab executives Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery to appear before it.

The matter was discussed briefly at a meeting yesterday of the public spending watchdog and an application to the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which effectively sets Dáil rules, is expected within days.

It is the first time such an order has been sought under the new Oireachtas inquiries legislation which was enacted last year.

The move follows decisions taken separately by Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery not to appear at a recent PAC hearing despite being requested to do so.

The Act required the committee to set up its own procedures and protocols to determine how such orders would be dealt with and processed.

The process could be completed within three weeks, resulting in bodies and individuals being compelled to appear at a PAC meeting before the summer recess.

It has emerged that Ms Kerins lodged a complaint with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges over her treatment during a previous PAC hearing.

PAC chairman John McGuinness rejected allegations contained in legal letters sent by solicitors acting for Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery on Wednesday night, which raised questions around the committee’s remit.

Ms Kerins wrote to the committee informing it that she was unwell and Mr Flannery informed the committee he would not attend the hearing.

However, Mr McGuinness was criticised by some PAC members for reading a confidential letter from Mr Flannery’s solicitor into the record.


‘Belittling’
The letter from solicitor Robert Dore accused Mr McGuinness of “belittling” an earlier letter he had sent to committee.

“It is very easy to score cheap shots for your own expedience, but at my expense, while skulking behind the shield of parliamentary privilege,” Mr Dore wrote.

“Your readiness to abuse this privilege calls into question your suitability to be a member of any Oireachtas committee, not to mind your suitability to be chairman of such an exalted one.”

Mr Dore added he was in no doubt the letter would be leaked to the media or end up in Mr McGuinness’ “nonsense file”.

Fine Gael deputies John Deasy and Eoghan Murphy criticised Mr McGuinness for reading the contents of the letter into the record.

“This is getting petty.” Mr Deasy said. “If the committee engages in a tit-for-tat campaign we are entering and in danger of becoming petty, so I think we should drop it.”