Monday 18 February 2019

Developer denies paying Ahern £50,000 land bribe

Cork-based developer Owen O'Callaghan was grilled by tribunal
lawyer Patricia Dillon over claims that he paid former
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern a IR£50,000 bribe to help secure land.
Cork-based developer Owen O'Callaghan was grilled by tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon over claims that he paid former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern a IR£50,000 bribe to help secure land.

Lorna Reid

Developer Owen O'Callaghan has vehemently denied bribing Bertie Ahern by paying him IR£50,000.

Clearly angry at being asked directly if he had given money to the former Taoiseach, Mr O'Callaghan retorted: "That's a silly question. This is absolute and total rubbish. I never paid a penny to him or to anybody."

Under intense questioning from Patricia Dillon, counsel for the Mahon Tribunal, the 65-year-old Cork-based developer denied bribing or approaching Mr Ahern for help to secure land.

Developer Tom Gilmartin had complained to Mr O'Callaghan that he was having difficulties trying to buy 69 acres of Dublin Corporation land which was essential for the land bank for a development at Quarryvale.

He told him that the late Liam Lawlor was interfering as was the former assistant city and county manager George Redmond. According to Mr Gilmartin, Mr Redmond had told other developers about the land and, consequently, Mr Gilmartin had to pay more than IR£5m to secure the 69 acres.

Trusted

Mr Gilmartin has already revealed to the tribunal that he told Mr O'Callaghan he had asked Bertie Ahern -- the only politician he trusted -- for help and that in turn Mr O'Callaghan revealed to him (Mr Gilmartin) that he paid IR£50,000 to Mr Ahern.

"How could anybody believe that?" Mr O'Callaghan asked, adding that Mr Gilmartin had never told him about any contact he had with Mr Ahern, although he frequently referred to contact he had with former Environment Minister Padraig Flynn.

Mr Gilmartin has also told the tribunal that Dublin city councillor Joe Burke was sent by Mr Ahern as "a damage limitation exercise" to see Mr Gilmartin about the problem of the corporation land.

Mr O'Callaghan said he didn't know who Joe Burke was at that time and his name was never mentioned in the frequent chats he had with Mr Gilmartin.

Help

"I did not help or assist Tom Gilmartin beyond listening to his complaints about Liam Lawlor and George Redmond. He told me that George Redmond was trying to muscle in to ensure that Green Properties (the developers of the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre) got the corporation land," Mr O'Callaghan added.

"Any sane, sensible person would have realised how vital the corporation land was in building up the Quarryvale land bank, but I don't think Tom Gilmartin was aware of that," Mr O'Callaghan said.

Mr O'Callaghan said he did not get involved. As far as he was concerned, he no longer had any interest in the lands in west Dublin. He had sold his Neilstown site to Mr Gilmartin and was waiting to be paid for it under their option agreement.

He agreed that if Mr Gilmartin was able to buy the corporation land it would greatly increase his chances of putting the Quarryvale site together and of Mr O'Callaghan getting his remaining IR£2.7m for his Neilstown land.

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