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Sunday 19 January 2020

Dunlop carried thousands in briefcase to bribe politicians

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

FORMER government press secretary Frank Dunlop kept a "war chest" of more than half-a-million pounds in cash to bribe councillors.

He would sometimes be walking around with up to IR£100,000 in his briefcase, the tribunal revealed.

Mr Dunlop owned up to having IR£535,500 between September 1989 and September 1993, when the Dublin development plan was being reviewed.

He had cash sums ranging between IR£25,000 and IR£100,000 in his briefcase.

In addition, the disgraced lobbyist also had access to money lodged into bank accounts in the name of Shefran Ltd.

Money also 'talked' when it came to efforts by Dunlop to get councillors to support rezoning motions.

Rarely, if ever, did Mr Dunlop have to comprehensively brief councillors on the merits in planning or community terms of a particular proposal for the purpose of persuading them to support that proposal.

"In reality, the money did the talking," the tribunal said.

The disgraced lobbyist kept a diary listing the names of politicians and developers who allegedly received payments.

Some of the lists of names revealed important information in relation to payments.

Mr Dunlop (65) was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption, with the final six months suspended, after he pleaded guilty to five charges of corruption.

He admitted handing over money to politicians at the time of crucial rezoning votes at council meetings relating to lands at Carrickmines in Dublin.

According to the tribunal, Mr Dunlop had tried to wipe out some entries on his diary, and even efforts by the FBI to decipher these proved unsuccessful.

Mr Dunlop immersed himself in the business of dispersing money to councillors via what he described as "the system".

Support

This involved paying mainly "modest" amounts of money, often involving sums of IR£1,000 or IR£2,000 to a handful of councillors to support rezoning or material contraventions of the Dublin development plan.

"When that strategy proved successful, as it frequently did, the financial rewards for the relevant landowners/developers were enormous by any standards," according to the Mahon report.

"While the potential financial gain was immeasurable, the outlay necessary to achieve the rezoning of the land in question (in the form of, in particular payments to councillors) was in most instances relatively modest."

Mr Dunlop in his tribunal statement had said: "A 'system' was in operation in Dublin County Council whereby a nexus of councillors -- Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and certain independents -- proffered their support in terms of signing motions . . . in return for cash.

"The money was requested. I did not invent the system," added Mr Dunlop.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that IR£80,000 paid to Mr Dunlop by developer Owen O'Callaghan was for the purposes of "corruptly paying councillors to ensure their support for the Quarryvale land development in west Dublin".

Payments made by Mr O'Callaghan to Shefran totalling IR£70,000 in 1992 and IR£25,000 in early 1993 were used in part for the purposes of making payments to councillors.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that the activities of Mr Dunlop and Mr O'Callaghan were corrupt.

The process of paying councillors to ensure and copperfasten support for the project to rezone Quarryvale during the review of the Dublin Development Plan was strategic.

This strategy was "planned, promoted and organised by Mr O'Callaghan, together with, and based on advice from Mr Dunlop and Mr Lawlor (Liam Lawlor)".

Mr Dunlop said yesterday he had no comment to make in relation to the tribunal findings.

Irish Independent

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