Wright 'unaware' of boozy council culture
Published 15/01/2010 | 05:00
FORMER politician GV Wright yesterday insisted he knew nothing about claims that a lobbyist spent hundreds of pounds "filling councillors with drink" before and after council meetings to deal with rezonings.
Mr Wright, a former TD who was a local councillor at the time, was giving evidence in a case being brought by a builder who claims he is owed €2m arising out of a deal he made with a landowner to lobby for rezoning and work in obtaining planning permission for an €44m housing development in Donabate, Dublin.
Patrick Cassidy, of Beaufield Lawns, Maynooth, Co Kildare, claims the money is due arising out of a 1991 deal which involved him spending months lobbying councillors to successfully obtain rezoning for a 19-acre site at Turvey, Donabate, Dublin, and subsequent planning permission for 95 houses on that site.
Mr Cassidy has brought High Court proceedings against the owner of the land, Margaret Heneghan, Beaverstown, Donabate, claiming she and her family had failed to abide by agreements which he made since 1991 with her late husband, John Heneghan, who worked as a site foreman with a building company at the time. Mr Heneghan died in 1996.
Mr Cassidy, who ran a building company in England and described himself as a planning consultant, claims that between 1991 and 1996, he spent "hundreds of hours" working to secure rezoning and planning approval for development by lobbying councillors.
He claims he spent thousands in expenses, including flying back and forth from England to attend council meetings, and spending IR£1,200 on "entertainment, food and beverages" for councillors.
It is claimed there was a written agreement that Mr Heneghan would pay Mr Cassidy €266,000 on a "no foal, no fee" basis once permission was obtained and that he would also get four housing sites in the development worth €1.6m.
Mr Cassidy also claims there was agreement he would be given the contract for the development's road and drainage worth €279,000 at the time.
But after Mr Heneghan died and permission was obtained, Mrs Heneghan refused to honour the agreement, it is alleged.
Retired FF politician GV Wright and sitting Fingal councillor Anne Devitt (FG) yesterday gave evidence on Mr Cassidy's behalf.
Both said they dealt with Mr Cassidy leading up to the rezoning of the land in 1993, along with a town planner who drew up documents for the rezoning. He also dealt with Mr Cassidy in relation to further efforts to get planning permission.
Mr Wright said that at the time councillors were spending four to five days a week in the Dublin City Council's O'Connell Street chambers dealing with rezoning applications.
He said he met with Mr Cassidy on a number of occasions, including in a nearby pub. Under cross-examination from Senan Allen, for Mrs Heneghan, Mr Wright said he was unaware that Mr Cassidy had spent IR£1,200 towards the cost of "filling councillors with drink" before and after meetings.
Counsel put it to him that Mr Cassidy had given evidence of "drinking going on in Conways pub before the council meetings" and Mr Wright replied: "How do I answer that, we were in a public house and drink was being served."
Mr Wright also said he got a political donation in 1993 of IR£300 from Mr Cassidy through a fundraising golf classic in Portmarnock.
Cllr Devitt said she and the late Cllr Cyril Gallagher (FF) signed the rezoning motion for the Heneghan land as part of a package recognising the "symbiotic" relationship between this land and that of a neighbour, Noel McAllister, who could provide access to a road.
The case continues.