Council refuses to clarify if its CEO knew of extortion racket

Council refuses to clarify if its CEO knew of extortion racket
Orchard Lawns in Cherry Orchard, Dublin. The High Court has been told protection money was paid to allow construction of the complex.

  • Timeline of events connected to extortion payments
  • Summer 2016: Dublin City Council begins construction of a west Dublin housing development. Legitimate local protests take place as the planned site will encroach on a community garden area
  • Autumn 2016: An initial security firm is appointed after which a JCB operator is doused in petrol
  • October-November 2016: The original security firm is replaced by a group involving two individuals later named in the High Court as Derek O’Driscoll, 46, and Derek Reilly, 36 who are subsequently given €500,000 for ‘fence repairs’ and ‘security’. The violence and anti-social behaviour suddenly stops
  • December 24, 2016: Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Sinn Féin councillor Daithi Doolan write to then housing minister Simon Coveney, then justice minister Frances Fitzgerald, junior minister for drugs Catherine Byrne, Dublin City Council and the local Garda superintendent toraise protection money concerns
  • January 5-6, 2017: Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald’s office acknowledges the letters, saying the gardaí are examining the matter
  • October 8, 2019: Scale of the extortion payments revealed in High Court
  • October 9: Ms Byrne confirms she was aware of the case in late 2016, while Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy says he knew nothing about it
  • October 10: Mr Coveney says that he was never told of the December 2016 correspondence by officials, while a spokesperson for Ms Fitzgerald does not respond to queries.Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy launches an independent investigation amid calls for a nationwide protection money review

Dublin City Council has refused to clarify if its chief executive Owen Keegan or senior management knew that protection money was paid to criminals under the guise of ‘security’ at a housing development.

A spokesperson for the local authority declined to answer any questions, or provide any details of its now suspended internal investigation into what happened.

In a High Court case on Tuesday, it emerged that two council staff recommended protection money be paid to two criminals so that a 120-unit social housing development could be built in Cherry Orchard, west Dublin, in 2016 and 2017.

Three firms, who were delivering the houses for the council, paid €1,200 to €1,500 a week to the criminals.

The original security firm is replaced by a group involving two individuals later named in the High Court as Derek O’Driscoll, 46, pictured, and Derek Reilly, 36
The original security firm is replaced by a group involving two individuals later named in the High Court as Derek O’Driscoll, 46, pictured, and Derek Reilly, 36

While no money was paid directly by the council to the criminals, the firms were reimbursed by the local authority after a number of violent incidents at the site including a petrol bomb attack on a JCB operator in 2016.

The revelations have led to questions about whether the council officials were acting on their own or with the knowledge or sanction of senior management.

However, despite the concerns, the council has refused to provide any clarity on who knew what and when. In a number of queries to the council, the Irish Examiner asked:

  • If council chief executive Owen Keegan was aware money was being paid either directly or indirectly to criminals?
  • If other senior Dublin City Council managers were aware money was being paid either directly or indirectly to criminals?
  • If Dublin City Council is aware of any other cases involving protection money amid unsubstantiated claims that the highlighted case is being repeated elsewhere?

In addition, the council was asked to clarify points in its internal investigation into the case, including:

  • Its specific terms of reference
  • When it is due to conclude
  • Who is conducting the internal investigation
  • If it is examining if other protection-money cases have occurred or are occurring at Dublin City Council
  • And, crucially, if Mr Keegan and/or other senior council managers were aware protection money was being paid by officials either directly or indirectly to criminals

However, despite committing to transparency in a statement on Wednesday, within half an hour of the questions being asked a spokesperson for Dublin City Council responded with a one-line answer, saying:

“Dublin City Council is not commenting further pending the outcome of the investigation.”

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