CORK property developer Owen O’Callaghan (pictured) described evidence of two witnesses at the Mahon Tribunal who claimed he discussed the payment of £40,000 to the late TD, Liam Lawlor in 1991 as “complete and utter rubbish”.
The businessman told the planning inquiry he could offer no explanation why both developer Tom Gilmartin and political lobbyist Frank Dunlop would make an allegation he was involved in paying Mr Lawlor for help with the rezoning of land at Quarryvale in west Dublin.
But Mr O’Callaghan agreed with tribunal barrister, Patricia Dillon SC, that it was unlikely the two men would have agreed on the evidence they would give to the inquiry as Mr Gilmartin had never wanted anything to do with Mr Dunlop.
The tribunal heard all three men provided a different recollection of when, in 1991, a meeting had taken place between them and Mr Lawlor. But Ms Dillon SC said all witnesses agreed there was only one such meeting where they were all present.
She reminded Mr O’Callaghan that Mr Gilmartin had given evidence last year that he had seen the Cork developer and Mr Dunlop having an argument after the meeting over a demand by Mr Lawlor for £40,000.
Asked for his response to such a claim, Mr O’Callaghan remarked: “Not an iota of truth. Complete and utter rubbish.”
He agreed with the tribunal chairman, Judge Alan Mahon, that he would have assumed there was something improper about the payment to Mr Lawlor if he had heard about it.
Mr O’Callaghan said he was anxious at the time to get together with Mr Gilmartin to arrange how to lobby 78 councillors to get them to support the rezoning of Quarryvale.
He met the other developer in or around Leinster House when they bumped into Mr Lawlor, who advised them that they would need to organise themselves quickly as Dublin County Council was due to vote on the matter in the near future.
Mr O’Callaghan said the Fianna Fáil TD advised them to contact Mr Dunlop as soon as possible. He recalled the three went to Mr Dunlop’s office, despite Mr Gilmartin’s reluctance.
At the meeting, Mr Dunlop outlined how he would get Quarryvale rezoned using his political contact, recalled Mr O’Callaghan.
He said there was “a lot of bluster” from Mr Gilmartin who did not want to proceed with Mr Dunlop’s proposal so they left the meeting albeit “on a friendly basis”.
“If money was discussed later on, it was after the meeting. It was not in my presence,” stressed Mr O’Callaghan.
Asked why two other witnesses with no connections would have a similar recollection of what had taken place, he remarked: “I can’t explain it.”
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