Monday 22 January 2018

Developer who lifted the lid on planning corruption dies after long illness

The family of Tom Gilmartin, pictured at the Mahon Tribunal, said he was 'honest, honourable and courageous'.
The family of Tom Gilmartin, pictured at the Mahon Tribunal, said he was 'honest, honourable and courageous'.
Padraig Flynn

Ralph Riegel and Fionnan Sheahan

TOM Gilmartin, the property developer who blew the whistle on planning corruption, has passed away after a long illness. He was in his late 70s and died in Cork University Hospital.

Mr Gilmartin was a key witness at the Planning Tribunal, which found that the former Fianna Fail minister and EU commissioner Padraig Flynn had "wrongly and corruptly" sought a substantial donation from him.

Having been paid IR£50,000 intended for Fianna Fail by Mr Gilmartin, Mr Flynn used the money for his personal benefit.

Mr Gilmartin's allegations also led to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern's appearance before the tribunal.

The developer agreed to give evidence to the tribunal after an infamous appearance by Mr Flynn on 'The Late Late Show' in 1999, where he denied having received any payment and said Mr Gilmartin and his wife were not in good health, describing him as "out of sorts".

Mr Gilmartin's family said he died peacefully at Cork University Hospital this morning.

"We will greatly miss a much-loved husband, father and grandfather," the statement said. "We mourn the loss of a truly honest, honourable and courageous man."

Originally from Sligo, Mr Gilmartin left home in 1957, against his father's wishes, to pursue a career in Britain. He built a hugely successful engineering business in Luton.

The decline of the British car industry saw him move into construction and development in the 1980s in Ireland and Britain. Mr Gilmartin retired from Britain to live in Cork, initially in the Lough area of the southside of the city, before moving to a property off the Model Farm Road in Bishopstown.

He had suffered ill-health over recent years but had repeatedly expressed his annoyance over much of the media coverage of the tribunal.

However, his experiences of planning in Dublin, particularly in relation to a proposed shopping centre, were the primary causes for the establishment of the planning tribunal in Dublin Castle.

VINDICATION

Many of Mr Gilmartin's allegations involved the late Liam Lawlor and Cork-based property developer Owen O'Callaghan.

The inquiry was established by the Oireachtas in October 1997, with the final report published in 2012.

Following the publication of the hard-hitting Mahon Tribunal report, the Gilmartin family claimed that it was a total vindication of the developer's position.

Mr Gilmartin had alleged that money was demanded from him at various stages by politicians and councillors.

He claimed that in February 1989, when he emerged from a meeting room in Leinster House with the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey and a number of ministers, he was confronted by an unidentified person who proceeded to corruptly demand IR£5m from him.

He also told the tribunal he was provided by the individual with details of an offshore account into which the money was to be paid.

Mr Gilmartin's complaints to gardai about corruption were not thoroughly investigated.

The tribunal found Mr Flynn "wrongly and corruptly" sought a substantial donation from Mr Gilmartin for the Fianna Fail party and, having being paid IR£50,000 for that purpose, proceeded to use that money for his personal benefit.

The Mahon Tribunal was satisfied that the IR£50,000 funded at least a significant portion of the purchase of a farm in Co Mayo in the name of Mr Flynn's wife and was not used, except minimally, for political expenditure associated with the TD.

Irish Independent

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