Tribunal finds Dunlop made corrupt payments to councillors on behalf of Kennedy

Thursday 01 August 2013 20.22
The tribunal was conducted by Judge Alan Mahon
The tribunal was conducted by Judge Alan Mahon

Frank Dunlop made corrupt payments totalling £25,000 on behalf of businessman Jim Kennedy to councillors for the rezoning of land in Carrickmines, according to the final report from the Planning and Payments Tribunal.

The report found that then councillors including Liam Cosgrave, Don Lydon, Colm McGrath and Tony Fox accepted corrupt payments.

The Planning and Payments Tribunal was set-up in 1997 to investigate corruption in the planning process and produced five reports and held public hearings that ended 11 years later.

The report on the Carrickmines module was held over when the final report was published last year because of criminal proceedings.

It has been published now because that case collapsed.

The tribunal accepted evidence by former lobbyist Mr Dunlop that he paid bribes to six councillors - that former Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave got £9,000, sitting independent councillor Tony Fox who was then with Fianna Fáil got £7,000, former Fianna Fáil councillor Don Lydon got £3,000, and former Fianna Fáil councillor Colm McGrath got £2,000.

It found that the late Tom Hand of Fine Gael got £3,000 and the late Sean Gilbride of Fianna Fáil got £1,000.

But the tribunal ruled as unreliable Mr Dunlop's recollection of paying money to two other deceased councillors - Cyril Gallagher and Jack Larkin both of Fianna Fáil - and did not make corruption findings against them.

It found that payments of unspecified amounts to former Labour and independent councillor John O'Halloran totalling at least £750 were improper.

The tribunal found there was evidence of the significant role played by Liam Lawlor as an adviser and strategist in the efforts to rezone the Jackson Way lands.

The tribunal found, however, that it did not hear evidence "which established that as a matter of probability Mr Lawlor was (or had been) a beneficial owner of the Jackson Way lands".

Payments made to councillors

The report also found that a landowner in Carrickmines made a political donation to Fianna Fáil through councillor Betty Coffey. It consisted of a payment for tickets for a fundraising event.

Brian O'Halloran, who was part of the O'Halloran consortium, offered Ms Coffey £250 at a fundraising event in Killiney Castle Hotel in March 1996.

She told him that this was insufficient and she expected more from him. He then gave her £1,000.

Councillor Coffey told the tribunal that this donation did not influence her decision to sign motions and support the rezoning of lands owned by Mr O'Halloran.

She said she did not personally benefit from the donation as it was passed on to her Fianna Fáil constituency organisation.

But the tribunal found that it was "satisfied that Cllr Coffey's insistence that Mr O'Halloran's offer of a donation of £250 in March 1996 was insufficient, was improper and served to compromise Cllr Coffey's disinterested performance of her duties as a councillor".

Ms Coffey also admitted receiving a donation from Frank Dunlop.

The tribunal found she initially said that no payment of any nature had been made, but later revealed that Mr Dunlop gave her £1,000 for the 1992 general election, for which she provided a written receipt.

Ms Coffey recalled being lobbied once by Mr Dunlop in relation to the lands.

Solicitor John Caldwell, who testified he was co-owner of the Jackson Way lands along with Jim Kennedy, was found to have withheld information about the source of the funds to buy the lands.

The report said it was not credible that Mr Caldwell could not identify the source of £274,000, which was most of his investment in the lands and that he chose to withhold it.

The report also stated that it did not believe Mr Caldwell when he testified that he was unaware of a confidential planning map of the Carrickmines area obtained by Mr Kennedy in 1989.

The map was collected from a council planner by an engineer, who like Mr Kennedy, were both from Co Laois and it contained information that planners were considering zoning the Carrickmines lands as industrial.

The Tribunal said it was satisfied that the confidential and commercially sensitive information contained in the map prompted Mr Kennedy and Mr Caldwell to complete the purchase of the lands, certain in their expectation that the value of the lands would increase enormously when rezoned for development.

The tribunal said it was unable to establish who had requested the council planner to draw up the map.

It also outlined a close relationship between Mr Kennedy and George Redmond, the former assistant city and county manager for Dublin.

Mr Redmond told the Tribunal that he lent a total of £110,000 to Mr Kennedy and to one of his business partners in late 1980 but only around £50,000 was repaid.

Asked about the £110,000 Mr Redmond told the Tribunal that it came from savings and “consultancy services” provided by him.

Keywords: mahon tribunal