The ‘canary’ whose dramatic revelations were music to tribunal’s ears

LITTLE wonder that Frank Dunlop, the man who has admitted paying a host of councillors cash for re-zoning votes, has been dubbed ‘the canary’ by many attending the Flood Tribunal.

Ever since he cracked under the Flood Tribunal’s spotlight two years ago, the former lobbyist’s disclosures have been music to the ears of those plumbing the murky depths of planning decisions in the Dublin area.

Yesterday’s session of the Flood Tribunal threw up the names of a number of politicians to whom Mr Dunlop claims he paid money. They have applied for legal representation for the next phase of the inquiry and are expected to maintain that the payments, if any, were normal political donations and did not influence their votes.

Things will begin to get really interesting next month when Mr Dunlop reveals details of what he calls a “nexus” of councillors who accepted payments to push through controversial land use changes.

Mr Dunlop is expected to detail how he tried to distribute a war chest of £25,000 in cash to ensure lands at Carrickmines would be rezoned, so that their value would soar.

It is also believed he will name individual councillors from the two main political parties who accepted sums of up to £5,000 to rezone a piece of land supposedly reserved for the M50 motorway.

There is also speculation that he will tell of anecdotal evidence that other payments were being made to councillors by developers anxious to secure the planning permission in other areas.

When you sift through how we got to this point in the inquiry, it’s clear that the shockwaves from the epicentre of Mr Dunlop’s dramatic disclosures before the tribunal in April 2000 are still being felt.

That moment meant that after two-and-a-half years of legal sparring, and a decade of speculation, we finally discovered something people had long suspected.

Mr Dunlop admitted that certain politicians were taking cash for votes on rezoning. He wrote the names of 15 politicians, who had taken sums ranging from £500 to £40,000. This included a “Mr Big”, later named as Liam Lawlor, and a “Mr Insatiable”, a former Fianna Fáil county councillor.

Among this sensational information was the disclosure that payments had been made in relation to the attempted rezoning of land in Carrickmines in 1992, now under the gaze of the tribunal. Mr Dunlop said he made the payments in relation to over 100 acres of land owned by Paisley Park investments, a shelf company designed to hide the real owners. This company is now known to most as the mysterious Jackson Way firm.

Insiders say Dunlop is expected to portray himself as a functionary, rather than a direct participant in corrupt land dealings. This is not surprising, particularly given that the interim Flood Tribunal report effectively absolved James Gogarty, who also facilitated corrupt payments, as a functionary of more powerful and corrupt forces.

Just how the Flood Tribunal views Mr Dunlop’s role when the judgment hour comes remains to be seen. It can, however, be thankful to this canary-like qualities which have seen tribunal investigators reach this far.

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