Sunday 19 November 2017

George Redmond - A frugal, slick and extremely corrupt man

George Redmond
George Redmond
George Redmond. Photo: Courtpix
John Downing

John Downing

When he retired as Dublin county manager in 1989, George Redmond's salary was equivalent to €24,000 per year. Yet he had investments worth €830,000 - and he lodged €217,000 to various accounts in that year alone. Those two facts tell us that the man "who was the council", and all-powerful in matters of planning, was in fact deeply corrupt and the planning process itself was rotten.

But the frailty of human nature also strongly suggests that, given that he was the gatekeeper of many multi-million-pound development projects, his salary should have been higher in order to mitigate the temptation to take bribes in exchange for planning clearance.

He rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest developers but retained an essentially frugal nature.

Contemporaries who worked at the council headquarters in the 1980s remember him sending out for chips every second Friday, once the fortnightly salary hit the bank, as a treat to enhance his packed lunch.

Redmond joined Dublin City and County Council straight from school at St Joseph's CBS, Marino, or 'Joey's' as it is still popularly known, in 1941.

Over the next 48 years, he worked his way through the ranks and for a long time was head of planning for both the city and county, where he fashioned a reputation of being 'pro-development'.

In 1980, he was promoted with the title of 'assistant city and county manager'. In practice, he was the de facto Dublin county manager, while Frank Feely was in charge of the city area.

Long before Redmond retired, colleagues had their suspicions about his activities. It was an era when Dublin County Council was the second-largest democratically elected forum in the country and a by-word for questionable rezonings and planning permissions.

Cleverly enough, Redmond often stood back from these controversies and on occasions took the side of objecting community groups.

His 'permissions for pay' were more usually low-profile and discreet.

Despite this, he was one of a few council officials questioned by gardaí in 1989 over planning corruption allegations.

Nothing came of this, bar a guilty plea by a relatively minor official.

Redmond emerged unscathed and retired on a pension, which, despite all his other difficulties, was never touched by the authorities.

The late James Gogarty, who died in 2005, proved his undoing. Gogarty ultimately proved a very unreliable witness and his well-known row over a pension, which was denied him by his builder employers, led to a whole suite of allegations, including suggestions of gift lump sums.

Suddenly, Redmond was in his mid-70s and among a list of key people at the Planning Tribunal. He achieved national notoriety when he was intercepted by the Criminal Assets Bureau at Dublin Airport in 1999.

Redmond was on his way back from the Isle of Man and in possession of some €300,000 in cash and cheques. This led to a marathon entanglement with the Revenue, which ended with him handing over almost €1m in back taxes and penalties. This caused the sale of his family home in plush Castleknock.

The ensuing years brought continued tribunal and court litigation. In 2003, he was jailed for a year on corruption charges - separate from the tribunal proceedings - but six months later that was successfully appealed and he was released from jail.

In 2004, the Planning Tribunal ruled that he was corrupt and denied costs, saying he had obstructed it. But in December 2014, this was reversed, including the costs issue, following on successful litigation by others condemned by the tribunal.

His passing marks the end of an era.

Irish Independent

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