Ex-Rehab chief Angela Kerins seeks mediation over damages

Former chief executive pursuing damages for ‘witchhunt’ treatment during 2014 hearings

Angela Kerins claims her treatment by the Public Accounts Committee led to an attempt by her to take her own life and to other fundamental life changes. File photograph: Collins Courts

Angela Kerins claims her treatment by the Public Accounts Committee led to an attempt by her to take her own life and to other fundamental life changes. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

Former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins wants the Dáil and State to enter mediation of her damages claim over her treatment by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, The Irish Times has learned.

It is understood the Dáil and State have not so far taken up the offer to enter the non-binding mediation and their lawyers have indicated there is unwillingness to do so.

In those circumstances, Ms Kerins’ case is being re-entered with a view to pursuing the damages and other claims and is listed before the High Court on Monday.

Ms Kerins is seeking substantial damages over her treatment before two hearings of the PAC in 2014 when she was questioned by some members about matters including her €240,000 annual salary and the salaries of other Rehab officials.

That treatment, she has claimed, amounted to a “witchhunt” and led to an attempt by her to take her own life and to other fundamental life changes, including significant financial loss.

Her damages claim is expected to include claims for loss of her annual salary, bonuses and company car with Rehab from the time of her resignation in 2014 to retirement age.

Pension

She is also expected to claim over the impact of her resignation on her pension.

The case is listed on Monday before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, for directions concerning the hearing of the second part of it.

The second leg involves claims for misfeasance in public office, breach of constitutional rights and damages arising from her treatment by the PAC.

Her claim raises novel legal issues not previously considered by the courts.

Ms Kerins’ High Court action was initiated in 2014 and that court decided in 2015 it should proceed via two modules.

The first module concerned whether the courts had jurisdiction to interfere with hearings before Oireachtas Committees.

Other issues, including any entitlement to damages, were parked pending the outcome of that.

In its judgment on the first module in January 2017, a three-judge High Court was strongly critical of the PAC’s treatment of Ms Kerins but concluded, because of the constitutional separation of powers, the courts could not intervene.

Landmark judgment

Ms Kerins appealed to the Supreme Court which, in a landmark judgment, found the PAC acted unlawfully in its treatment of Ms Kerins in that it acted outside its terms of reference and of its invitation to Ms Kerins to appear before it.

The seven-judge court granted a declaration against the Dáil to that effect last May.

It directed that any further dispute between the sides, including whether there was any entitlement to damages, should be decided, in the first instance, by the High Court.

It could not be assumed there was an entitlement to damages and any such claim raised novel issues of law, the court said.