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Sunday 18 February 2018

Mahon findings: Several councillors received payments from Frank Dunlop

Frank Dunlop
Frank Dunlop
Businessman Jim Kennedy.

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

THE Mahon Tribunal has found that several county councillors received corrupt payments totalling IR£25,000 from former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, who set out to bribe them in a bid to rezone land.

The report found that then councillors, including Liam Cosgrave, Don Lydon, Colm McGrath and Tony Fox accepted corrupt payments.

Another former councillor, John O’Halloran, also received payments described as “improper”.

The tribunal published its final chapter today - dealing with attempts to rezone land in Carrickmines in south county Dublin.

Publication of the chapter had been delayed until after the corruption trial involving businessman Jim Kennedy serving and former county councillors he was alleged to have bribed.

That trial collapsed last week due to the poor health of the main witness, former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, who claimed he paid money to councillors on behalf of Mr Kennedy.

The Director of Public Prosecutions entered as nolle prosequi, meaning Mr Kennedy and the councillors will not face any further charges.

All had denied the charges against them.

The tribunal accepted Mr Dunlop’s evidence that Mr Kennedy knew money would have to be paid to councillors as part of any rezoning campaign.

It also accepted IR£25,000 was handed over by Mr Kennedy to do this.

The tribunal examined attempts to rezone approximately 130 acres in the Carrickmines Valley in south county Dublin.

Of these, 108 acres were purchased by Paisley Park Investments Ltd in 1991 and apparently subsequently transferred to Jackson Way Properties Ltd.

The tribunal’s public inquiry into these rezoning attempts was prompted by allegations of bribery and corruption in connection with attempts by lobbyist Frank Dunlop to have the land rezoned in the early 1990s.

Mr Dunlop had claimed he was paid IR£25,000 in cash by businessman Jim Kennedy - a Gibraltar-based businessman, who was the principal director of Jackson Way – for the express purpose of bribing councillors. He also maintained that he was offered a IR£100,000 as a “success” fee in the event of the lands being rezoned.

The tribunal found:

* It was satisfied then Fianna Fail councillor Don Lydon sought money from Mr Dunlop and was paid IR£3,000 in return for supporting a motion which came before the then Dublin County Council in June 1992.

* The late Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand also received a corrupt payment of IR£3,000 from Mr Dunlop in return for supporting a motion to rezone Paisley Park’s 108 acres at Carrickmines.

* It was satisfied Dunlop made a corrupt payment of IR£2,000 to then Fianna Fail councillor Colm McGrath to support the rezoning motion.

* Payments of IR£2,000 in 1992 and IR£5,000 and IR£2,000 in 1997 to then Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave were corrupt. Mr Cosgrave had claimed they were legitimate donations.

* However, the tribunal was unable to determine if another payment for IR£1,000 to Mr Cosgrave was made. They payment was denied by Mr Cosgrave.

* Then Fianna Fail councillor Sean Gilbride received a corrupt payment of IR£1,000 from Mr Dunlop for supporting a rezoning motion. The tribunal was satisfied Mr Dunlop had a clear recollection of Mr Gilbride seeing the money.

* Former Fianna Fail councillor Tony Fox, now an independent, sought and received payments of IR£2,000 and IR£5,000 in return for supporting the rezoning of lands at Carrickmines.

* However, it was not satisfied Mr Dunlop had a clear and definite recollection of an alleged payment of IR£1,000 to the late Fianna Fail councillor Cyril Gallagher, and rejected his evidence.

* Mr Dunlop’s evidence in connection with an alleged payment of IR£1,000 to the late Fianna Fail councillor Jack Larkin was unreliable and had not been corroborated. The tribunal did not find that any such payment had been made.

* The Labour councillor John O’Halloran received payments of IR£500 in and IR£250 between 1991 and 1993. It also accepted evidence of other payments, in the region of IR£500 each, in the same period. However, it could not determine which development projects these related to. But the tribunal was satisfied that insofar as Mr O’Halloran solicited and accepted such payments at times when he was aware Mr Dunlop was a lobbyist in relation to rezoning issues, then he did so improperly.

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