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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says that Angela Kerins was 'badly treated' by the PAC

“Notwithstanding all the issues around Ms Kerins’ salary, I think she was badly treated,” Varadkar told the Dáil committees’ chairs.

Image: Oireachtas TV

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that the previous Public Accounts Committee (PAC) did treat some witnesses “very badly”, and that Angela Kerins was “badly treated”.

“Notwithstanding all the issues around Ms Kerins’ salary, I think she was badly treated in the way that she was treated by the previous PAC,” he told a Dáil committee today.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court found that the PAC had “acted unlawfully” in its questioning of former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins, who had sought damages from committee for distress, public humiliation, and the loss of her career following her appearance before the committee in February 2014.

After the High Court ruled in 2017 that the judiciary didn’t have the jurisdiction to intervene in the case due to Dáil privilege, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling earlier this year saying that the courts could adjudicate on its behaviour, on the basis that the PAC had acted “significantly outside its remit” in this case. 

This ruling raised concerns among politicians that the threat of the judiciary may hamper their attempts to call or question key witnesses; this debate was heightened following the appearance of the FAI and John Delaney before the Oireachtas Sports Committee.

Repeating comments that he made previously, Varadkar said that he had campaigned and voted in favour of giving parliamentary committees more powers to investigate in the 2014 referendum on the subject, but said that he was glad that the public had voted against the proposals:

“There’s one referendum that I voted for that I’m glad got defeated, and that was the one that would have given parliament the power to carry out Oireachtas inquiries and make findings of fact against people. I voted for that and as part of the government proposed it, and I’m glad the people in their wisdom refused it.”

“Because ultimately we are politicians. We need votes to stay in our jobs, and we’re driven by news cycles. And if you’re going to act in a judicial way, and make judgements on individuals, well then you have to do it in a fair way, you have to listen to all of the evidence, and not comment on it until you’ve heard all the evidence, then come to your conclusions.”

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Among those who have criticised the behaviour of some members of the PAC are former HSE general director Tony O’Brien, and the chair of the health committee Dr Michael Harty. O’Brien accused the PAC of being “a kangaroo court”, and said some members used it to make statements instead of asking witnesses questions in order to get to the heart of a particular issue.

“I really think that’s one of those areas where the people were right,” Varadkar says of the referendum result. “We should maintain the separation between the judiciary who can make findings of fact and against individuals; and us as politicians who really probably shouldn’t go into that space.”

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