Former PAC members react to Kerins appeal judgment

Approach to hearings involving voluntary organisations led to deep divisions in PAC

Angela Kerins was questioned at length by the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: Collins Courts

Angela Kerins was questioned at length by the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Thirteen members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) made contributions during its meeting on February 27th, 2014, when then Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins was questioned at considerable length during the course of a seven-hour meeting.

The Irish Times tried to contact the 2014 members in the wake of yesterday’s judgment by the Supreme Court that found in favour of Ms Kerins on key elements of her court appeal concerning her treatment before the PAC. A number of former members spoke on the record while others did not comment.

The approach to hearings involving voluntary organisations in receipt of State funding led to deep divisions within the then PAC.

In private conversations, at least five members said the three members who had most assertively questioned Ms Kerins were Shane Ross, Mary Lou McDonald and chairman John McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness of Fianna Fáil, then chairman of the committee, said: “I cannot comment at the moment as I have not had an opportunity to read a lengthy judgment or receive a briefing from Oireachtas lawyers.”

Former Fine Gael TD Áine Collins said: “I think the Supreme Court judgment is actually the right decision. What happened in 2014 was incorrect. I thought so at the time and I still think so now. I said as much at that meeting.”

Former Labour Party TD Robert Dowds said: “My impression is that the PAC needs to have its remit upgraded. They should have the right to examine any public spending in a Government department or other agency.”

‘Big characters’

Former Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton said: “The PAC was full of big characters with big profiles and some meetings were robust but I honestly felt it never strayed outside its remit. It was a great committee to be on and work with. Perhaps some of those questioned did not feel that way.”

Seán Fleming, then a member of the PAC, now its chair: no comment.

Eoghan Murphy, then a PAC member, now Minister for Housing, was not available for comment yesterday. However, he was one of a few members, along with John Deasy, who questioned the approach of the PAC. At a later public meeting in June that year, he said that what was clear from the February meeting was the “central fact [is] that we are outside our remit so the problem is to change the remit. So long as we operate under the current remit, operated under the standing orders, I do not think we can pursue this matter. We must, therefore, look at the bigger picture rather than continue down this path with Rehab which I think is only going to damage the committee in the future.”

Fine Gael TD John Deasy: no comment.

A spokeswoman for Simon Harris (then a member of PAC, now Minister for Health) said he could not comment as case is ongoing.

Shane Ross (then a member of PAC, now Minister for Transport) said: “It would be inappropriate to comment as the case is ongoing.”

Kieran O’Donnell (former Fine Gael TD, now a Senator) could not be contacted .

Former Labour Party TD Derek Nolan could not be contacted.

Gerard Nash (then a Labour Party TD, now a Senator) said: “Today’s judgment comes as no surprise to me. Too many members of that PAC were far more interested in making names for themselves rather than getting down to the details of how public money was spent.”