The lobbyist and former Government Press Secretary Frank Dunlop has told the Flood Tribunal about payments of more than £112,000 that he made to councillors in the run up to the local elections in 1991. He admitted that the money was given in return for assistance on the rezoning of the Quarryvale lands in West Dublin. The Tribunal has now been adjourned untill May 9.
Mr Dunlop resumed his evidence at the Tribunal today by complying with an order to identify the source of money of a new account discovered by the Tribunal yesterday. Mr Dunlop wrote the source of lodgement on a piece of paper, but the names are not to be made public yet. He is also making a list of the recipients of large cash withdrawals from the account. He said that the money had been solicited and was paid to people during the local elections of 1991 but denied that it was in connection with a vote on Quarryvale. He said it would be disingenuous to suggest that all those who had voted in favour of Quarryvale rezoning had solicited money during the election. Mr Dunlop's revelations follow Mr Justice Feargus Flood's suggestion, at the close of the hearing yesterday, that Mr Dunlop should reflect on his refusal to say where the money came from and how it was spent.
He admitted under cross examination that payments he made to councillors were in light of assistance on the rezoning of Quarryvale lands in West Dublin. He has listed 15 councillors who he gave money to, some of whom were TD's and detailed those payments. The payments ranged from £1,000 to £40,000. He told the tribunal that one sum of £2,000 in cash was handed over to a politician in the Dáil bar. Yesterday the tribunal heard that the sums ranged from £1,000 to £35,000. One payment of £12,000 was given to a councillor in cash at his home late one evening. The tribunal heard that the politician in question had asked for this amount. The money was paid over one month after Dublin county councillors had voted to rezone land at Quarryvale. The £2,000 paid to the politician in the Dáil bar was also paid during the same period, he claimed.
Mr Dunlop made at least two cash payments to councillors in Conway’s Pub, on Parnell Street in Dublin, one of £1,000 and another of £15,000. He paid another unidentified individual £40,000 and then £8,500 at a later stage. Mr Dunlop said he paid out this last sum in his office. He took the money out of his briefcase and put it in a plastic bag. Mr Dunlop was asked whether the vote on Quarryvale was big in his mind at the time. He said, in broad terms, yes. He agreed that councillors were working hand in glove with him on the rezoning issue.
The money came from an account which Frank Dunlop said had been set up in 1991 for the concealment of monies given to him in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons, including for lobbying purposes. When asked had he made any contributions to members of Dáil Éireann between 1991-93, Mr Dunlop said that in some instances there was a dual role. When asked if he gave money to TDs or Senators who were not councillors he replied: “To the best of my knowledge, no.” He also denied that he made any payment to local government officials.
Mr Dunlop was at the time working as a lobbyist for the property developer Owen O Callaghan and was reimbursed for the sums he paid out Mr O’Callaghan. Owen O Callaghan later built the Liffey Valley shopping centre on the Quarryvale site.
The Tribunal was adjourned after counsel for the Tribunal was told that Frank Dunlop was under considerable strain and was unwell. A few minutes previous to this, Mr Dunlop who was giving evidence, had asked to be excused from the stand. The Tribunal has been put back until the May 9.
The property developer Owen O'Callaghan has said he is looking forward to the opportunity of clarifying issues arising from today's evidence by Mr Dunlop. He also told RTÉ News that he has been asked to make a personal statement to the tribunal although he has not as yet been asked to appear as a witness.
The Chief Executive of the Irish Nationwide Building Society, Michael Fingleton, was earlier accused at the Tribunal of adopting a cavalier approach to orders made by the Tribunal chairman. Mr Fingleton had been ordered by the Tribunal to produce documents relating to accounts in the Cork branch of Irish Nationwide but failed to produce all the required documents. At this morning sitting, Mr Patrick Hanratty, Senior Counsel for the Tribunal, said Mr Fingleton's attitude had been cavalier in the extreme. Mr Justice Flood said it had taken almost 10 weeks to get to this stage and the response from the Building Society had not been appropriate. Mr Fingleton denied there was any effort to avoid handing over the documents.