Thursday 18 January 2018

Q&A

What happened yesterday?

A corruption trial at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court involving businessman Jim Kennedy and three former Dublin councillors – Liam Cosgrave (FG), Colm McGrath (FF) and Tony Fox (formerly FF, now independent) collapsed.

Why?

A medical condition affecting the state's chief witness, disgraced lobbyist Frank Dunlop (65), resulted in the DPP seeking to discharge the jury and have a new trial. Following objections, the DPP decided not to go ahead, entering a nolle prosequi.

Didn't the case against a fourth councillor collapse as well?

Yes. The trial of former FF councillor Don Lydon also collapsed last Monday after it was ruled that Mr Dunlop made a prejudicial comment during cross-examination. The DPP nolle prosequi also applies to Mr Lydon.

Were there allegations against other former councillors?

Yes. Another FF councillor, Sean Gilbride, was charged in relation to the same alleged offences prior to his death in January 2011, which he denied. It was also alleged that payments were made to deceased councillors Jack Larkin and Cyril Gallagher (both FF) and Tom Hand (FG).

What were the allegations?

Mr Dunlop, a key figure at the Mahon Tribunal which investigated corruption in the planning process, alleged that Mr Kennedy gave him £25,000 (€31,750) in 1991 to pay bribes to councillors to help get 108 acres of land known as Paisley Park rezoned in Carrickmines, south Dublin. He claimed he paid Mr Cosgrave, Mr Lydon, Mr McGrath and Mr Fox to vote to rezone the lands, a claim they all denied.

What did the councillors say in their defence?

Mr McGrath and Mr Cosgrave said any money received was a political donation. Mr Lydon denied receiving any corrupt payment, and was "happy" to rezone the land. Mr Fox said the allegation was "ridiculous" and that he signed the rezoning motion because he was a "firm believer" that it should be rezoned.

Who is Jim Kennedy?

A reclusive figure and tax exile living in Gibraltar, Mr Kennedy was the owner of a amusement arcade with extensive land holdings in south Dublin.

Why did he allegedly want the lands rezoned?

The land was deemed only suitable for agricultural use, and changing the use to residential or industrial would increase the value.

What did he say?

He denied the claims, saying he didn't hire Mr Dunlop because he was too expensive, and that he never gave any money to him.

Did council management agree to the zoning?

No. A senior planner for Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council told the court that the manager in 1997 had warned it would be "premature" to rezone the lands in Carrickmines due to inadequate road access or water supplies. The land has still not been developed.

How long had the trial being going on?

It had entered its fourth week.

Didn't the Mahon Tribunal look at these allegations?

It did, but withheld publication of the Carrickmines chapter for legal reasons, pending the outcome of this trial. That is now expected to be published shortly.

What will that tell us?

It will give the tribunal's take on what went on in relation to the Carrickmines site, but a tribunal's findings cannot be used in a criminal trial.

So has anyone been convicted of corruption after more than a decade of hearings at the tribunal?

Apart from Frank Dunlop, no.

He served 18 months. A former assistant Dublin city and county manager, George Redmond, had his conviction for corruption quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Two other Mahon figures – former TD Liam Lawlor (FF) and former minister Ray Burke (FF) – did go to prison, but not for corruption. Lawlor was jailed three times for contempt of court after refusing to co-operate with the tribunal, while Burke was jailed for six months for tax offences.

So what happens next?

There will be no retrial. However, a Criminal Assets Bureau case against Mr Kennedy and Jackson Way Properties, which had been put on hold, is expected to resume now.

Irish Independent

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