O'Callaghan - successful developer & controversial

Tuesday 20 August 2013 11.38
O'Callaghan - successful developer & controversial

By Pascal Sheehy

For more than 40 years Owen O'Callaghan has been one of the country's most successful property developers, with projects like Liffey Valley in Dublin and Mahon Point and Opera Lane in Cork. He has also been a very controversial figure.

In 1995, the then Public Enterprise Minister Michael Lowry claimed that a golden circle was operating in Irish business.

It followed the revelation that the sale of the Horgan's Quay site in Cork, which Mr O'Callaghan intended to develop, hadn't been put out to public tender.

Mr O'Callaghan responded by abandoning his plans and the site remains undeveloped to this day.

Former developer Tom Gilmartin alleged that Mr O'Callaghan told him he had paid Bertie Ahern IR£80,000 to block a tax designation for the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, a rival to Liffey Valley, in Dublin.

The former Taoiseach rejected the allegation.

Mr O'Callaghan challenged the Planning and Payments Tribunal in the courts and in March 2005, the Supreme Court gave Mr O'Callaghan access to statements given by Tom Gilmartin to the Tribunal.

In its report today, the Tribunal accepted Mr Gilmartin's evidence that he had been told by Mr O'Callaghan that he paid money to Mr Ahern.

But it also found it had not been proved that the payments had actually been made.

The Tribunal is also satisfied that Mr O'Callaghan told broadcaster Eamon Dunphy that Mr Ahern was “taken care of” and that Mr O'Callaghan found it necessary to engage in corrupt activity in order to successfully develop property in Dublin.

The Report says that over a ten-year period, from 1991 to 2001, over £1.8 million was paid to or for the benefit of Frank Dunlop by Mr O'Callaghan, through the companies Riga Ltd, Barkhill Ltd and Shefran Ltd.

The Tribunal found that part of the funds in Shefran were used for the purposes of making corrupt payments to councillors in respect of the Quarryvale development.

It also said that it was satisfied that the late Liam Lawlor's relationship with lobbyist Mr Dunlop and Mr O'Callaghan was firmly based in corruption.

Mr O'Callaghan has said he will seek judicial review of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal which, he said, he utterly rejects.

He said the Tribunal arrived at its conclusions based on procedures which were biased, unfair and unjust.