Monday 5 December 2016

€160m Tribunal 'wasted twenty years of my life'

Mick Bailey feels vindicated after adverse findings fall and demands investigation of planning probe

Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30

Lingering bitterness: Developer Michael Bailey said that the final cost of the tribunal could be as high as €250m Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Lingering bitterness: Developer Michael Bailey said that the final cost of the tribunal could be as high as €250m Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Developer Michael Bailey yesterday predicted that the Planning Tribunal which has already cost €160m will end up costing the taxpayer up to €250m - as key figures targeted by the inquiry seek recompense after "wasting 20 years of their lives."

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Adverse findings against 11 individuals have been removed from interim reports published more than a decade ago including builders Thomas and Michael Bailey, and Tom's wife Caroline listed on the Mahon Tribunal website on Friday.

The other individuals who now have no adverse findings against them are: Oliver Conlon, Jack Foley, Oliver Barry, James Stafford, John Mulhern, Joseph Murphy Snr, Joseph Murphy Jnr and Frank Reynolds.

However, some adverse findings remain in relation to former Fianna Fail Minister Ray Burke.

In addition, adverse findings against former assistant city and county manager, the late George Redmond, have been removed but a finding of corruption against him in the fifth and final report remains.

The changes have no impact on the findings of Mahon Tribunal's final report dealing with the finances of Bertie Ahern.

Yesterday, Michael Bailey said there is lingering bitterness about "20 wasted years."

"I do feel finally vindicated and I would say that my brother Tom and his wife Caroline feel the same. I am sure it is the same for others. There should be an investigation into what happened. I am sure there will be people who will seek further vindication for the loss to their reputations and the torment they went through. It could cost €250m when it's all finished," he said.

"I feel we were victims. Our reputations were shredded from day one and there is a certain lingering bitterness about that. I feel it was two decades of my life that was wasted, when our names were constantly in the media and we always felt that it was not fair. The whole process was not fair and I feel we were sacrificial lambs.

An "explanatory statement" posted on the Tribunal website says alterations have been made to its Second and Third Interim Reports published in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

The Second Interim Report was based on allegations made by whistleblower James Gogarty against Mr Burke and other individuals. The Third Interim Report dealt with allegations based on Mr Gogarty's claims relating to Mr Redmond.

Both reports had been prepared and written by Mr Justice Feargus Flood, the then sole member of the Tribunal in 2002.

The statement explains that in inquiries undertaken by him between 1998 and 2002, culminating in the public hearings that took place during that period, formed the basis of the two interim reports. In the course of those inquiries "certain prior witness statements were not circulated, or were circulated in partly redacted format, to interested parties".

The statement says the decision by Mr Justice Flood to proceed in this manner was "taken in good faith and in circumstances where he believed that doing so was legally sound and was in the interests of conducting the complex inquiries then underway in as efficient a manner as was possible".

He made the decision independently but had sought and received legal advice beforehand, it adds.

The practice continued until it was successfully challenged by builder Owen O'Callaghan in 2005, in respect of the Tribunal's inquiries then underway in relation to prior statements made by Tom Gilmartin. The prior statements in question were then released in full to interested parties and the opportunity to recall and re-examine witnesses was offered.

"The Tribunal has, having considered written submissions from those parties, removed parts of the Second and Third Interim Reports (including some findings)", the statement says.

"All adverse findings have been removed in relation to Oliver Conlon, Jack Foley, Oliver Barry, James Stafford, John Mulhern, Joseph Murphy Snr, Joseph Murphy Jnr, Frank Reynolds, Thomas Bailey, Michael Bailey and Caroline Bailey.

"Adverse findings remain in relation to Ray Burke, Tom Brennan, Joseph McGovern, John Finnegan, Tim O'Keeffe, Roger Copsey and John Bates."

Sunday Independent

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