Supreme Court PAC ruling raises ‘flag’ for future parliamentary investigations - FF TD
‘In light of the judgement various different members of all committees will have to take stock of that’
Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said members of all Oireachtas committees will have to take stock of the Supreme Court judgement. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
The Supreme Court decision that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) acted outside its remit in its questioning of former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins will raise a “flag” for future parliamentary investigations, a member of Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has said.
The Commission is the governing body of the Dáil and Seanad. Timmy Dooley, the Fianna Fáil member of the Commission, said it would now have to take a very serious look at the judgement and its implications.
“It raises a flag in how committees exercise their functions. Over time we will have to address that,” he said.
“In light of the judgement various different members of all committees will have to take stock of that.”
The PAC hearing in 2015 examined costs, salaries and allowances of voluntary organisations that were in receipt of State funding and Ms Kerins was questioned at length about her salary arrangements at Rehab.
On Wednesday, the Court held it would not be a breach of the separation of powers for it to declare the actions of the PAC unlawful in light of the fact that the PAC was acting outside its terms of reference and that a relevant committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas, namely the the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, had come to that view.
The judgement, read by chief justice Frank Clarke, said it assessed the PAC was acting “significantly outside its remit…together with the possibility that it might be appropriate to find on the evidence the PAC had invited Ms Kerins to attend before it on one basis but proceeded when she attended to deal with her on an entirely different basis.”
The Court has invited further submissions on whether or not there was a “substantial breach of its obligations” and has reserved judgment on that matter until April.
The Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness was chairman of the PAC at the time. When contacted on Wednesday he said he could not comment as he had not had an opportunity to ready what was a “lengthy judgement” or receive a briefing from Oireachtas lawyers.
Mr Dooley, when asked by reporters had the PAC been involved in what was described as “ambulance chasing”, rejected the portrayal.
“The PAC does exceptionally good work. It can be difficult for member at times to get to the bottom of certain issues.
“There are very few on any committee who are trained lawyers. They are lay people essentially trying to get at the truth on behalf of the taxpayer.
“For sure, there are robust exchanges,” he said.