Angela Kerins tells court she tried to end her life

Ex-Rehab chief says attempt came after ‘bullying’ by TDs during committee hearing

Former chief executive of the Rehab Group, Angela Kerins, arriving at the High Court in Dublin. She said she had lost her job and her career and was “deeply humiliated”.  Photograph: Collins Courts

Former chief executive of the Rehab Group, Angela Kerins, arriving at the High Court in Dublin. She said she had lost her job and her career and was “deeply humiliated”. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Angela Kerins, the former chief executive officer of the Rehab charity, has told the High Court “bullying and harassment” of her was led by politicians on the Dáil public accounts committee (PAC) and resulted in her becoming convinced “my death would solve the problem”.

She had felt “really forced” into a decision to end her life by March 14th, 2014, two weeks after she had appeared before a meeting of the PAC on February 27th, she said in a sworn statement.

At that point, she said, she was struggling to see a way through for either Rehab or herself and became “irrationally convinced” the solution “was for me to sacrifice myself”.

“I had a bizarre belief that, if I was off the planet, the Rehab group and everyone else close to me would be saved, my death would resolve the controversy which the Rehab group found itself in, and would also protect my family from further fallout from the PAC.”

Unconscious

Because a colleague had become concerned about an earlier phone call with her, this colleague got assistance to break into her home, found her, and she was taken unconscious to hospital, where she was discharged the following day.

“I was very angry with myself that I had not succeeded.”

As a result of her experiences before the PAC and attendant media coverage, her whole world had “turned upside down” and she resigned as Rehab chief in August 2014. The PAC “set out to destroy me” and that was not in the public interest, she said.

What she had experienced was a “McCarthyite witch-hunt”. She had lost her job and her career and was “deeply humiliated”. She had joined the Rehab group in 1992, was appointed its chief executive in 2006, and her work “meant everything to me”.

Her affidavit was read by her senior counsel John Rogers at the opening of a hearing concerning the jurisdiction of the PAC to question Ms Kerins. This issue is central to her case over her treatment by the committee. Her action includes a claim for aggravated damages.

Ms Kerins alleges the PAC unlawfully subjected her to a “vicious onslaught” and had no power to question her about issues including payments by the Rehab group to herself. The hearing is before a three-judge court comprising the president of the High Court, Judge Peter Kelly, and Judges Séamus Noonan and Isobel Kennedy.

Transcripts of PAC hearings concerning Ms Kerins from February and April 2014 were read to the court during the hearing. When the court queried if it would see video recordings of the hearings, Mr Rogers said they lasted seven hours, but he would consider the issue.

Earlier, Mr Rogers said a Sunday Independent article by Independent TD Shane Ross saying Ms Kerins had refused to reveal her “vast pay check” during an RTÉ interview had set the “tone” in early 2014 for a “growing orchestration” of material “negative about her personality and character”. Mr Ross was a member of the PAC that later subjected Ms Kerins to impermissible questions about matters not its business and outside its jurisdiction, counsel said.

‘Media storm’

She was discharged to the Beacon Clinic, Sandyford, and treated until March 11th, when she was discharged. “Regrettably, on March 14th, she self- harmed and became unconscious in her own home and had to be rescued for her life.”

The PAC, counsel argued, had in recent years “orchestrated a different mode of operation” characterised by a willingness to depart from a rule that it was not permitted to delve into personal and private affairs of companies, individuals, enterprises or charities.

A letter from the PAC dated February 18th, 2014, gave more details of the nature of the inquiry scheduled for February 27th, he said. Before that letter, Ms Kerins had met privately with PAC chairman John McGuinness and understood certain parameters would apply at the PAC hearing, but they did not.

During the “hostile” February 27th meeting, she was re-examined and cross-examined about her salary, pension and bonuses and other “wholly private and irrelevant” matters, Mr Rogers said.The hearing continues today.