Supreme Court to rule on appeal by Angela Kerins in PAC damages claim

Lawyers for former Rehab chief executive claim client subjected to ‘witch hunt’ style of questioning by committee

Angela Kerins alleges she suffered injuries and reputational damage due to the conduct of the PAC. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Supreme Court is due to rule on Tuesday in an appeal by former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins in her long-running damages claim over her treatment by a Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2014.

Her case, which alleges she was subjected to a “witch hunt” style of questioning by the committee, has run into significant legal difficulties, as speech and debate in Dáil Éireann is constitutionally protected and immune from judicial action.

More than a year ago, Ms Kerins’s lawyers told a seven-judge Supreme Court that she has “never sought to litigate the utterances” of the committee’s elected Dáil members. Rather, her case seeks to impugn the PAC’s “actions”.

Her appeal concerns the High Court’s dismissal of her pretrial request for Dáil Éireann documents she says will aid her in her case.


Mr Justice Alexander Owens, of the High Court, said article 15.13 of the Constitution precluded him from entertaining her request as “the gravamen of her claim calls for judgment on speech and debate by members of Dáil Éireann”.

He said her action for damages was “not maintainable” due to the constitutional protection placed on utterances in the Dáil, which extends to activities of committees within the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Ms Kerins appealed directly to the top court, which heard her appeal in May of last year. Dáil Éireann, Ireland and the Attorney General contested the appeal.

Ms Kerins appeared before the PAC in February 2014 amid controversy over her €240,000 salary. She claims she was so overwhelmed by what happened at the hearing that she later attempted to take her life and could not attend a follow-up hearing that April. She resigned from her role that month.

Ms Kerins alleges she suffered injuries and reputational damage due to the examination and the process the PAC engaged in without jurisdiction and without regard for her rights to privacy and to be dealt with fairly.

Her claims about the PAC have been denied, and the committee has previously argued it was entitled to ask questions concerning State funding to Rehab.

The May 2023 hearing was Ms Kerins’s second outing in the Supreme Court as part of this case. In 2019, the court ruled on the first module of her action and found that the committee acted unlawfully as a whole by straying significantly outside its terms of reference and the terms of an invitation to her.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times