Meeting ‘not linked to rezoning of land’

A FORMER Fianna Fáil councillor who met the political lobbyist, Frank Dunlop the day before an important rezoning motion was taken by Dublin County Council claims there was no connection between the two events.

Seán Gilbride told the Planning Tribunal yesterday that a meeting in Mr Dunlop's office on June 11, 1992, was not linked to a vote to rezone land at Carrickmines in south Dublin which was owned by Paisley Park Investments.

Mr Dunlop has told the tribunal he paid a total of £20,000 in bribes to nine members of Dublin County Council, including Mr Gilbride, for their support of a motion to rezone the property.

Mr Gilbride who was a councillor for the Balbriggan area between 1985 and 1999 said he only ever met the political lobbyist to discuss the Quarryvale development in west Dublin. He presumed this was the purpose of his meeting with Mr Dunlop, although he could not recollect the event.

However, the three members of the tribunal expressed surprise that Mr Gilbride would call to Mr Dunlop's office to discuss Quarryvale when he had already confirmed his support for that project at previous meetings.

Although Mr Gilbride does not dispute that they met on June 11, 1992, he strenuously denies the lobbyist's allegations that it related to corruption. Mr Dunlop claims he gave Mr Gilbride a £1,000 bribe in cash in return for his vote to rezone the Paisley Park lands.

Mr Gilbride, a teacher from Greenlawns, Skerries, said he had never asked anybody for payment in return for his vote at a council meetings.

The only money he ever received from the political lobbyist was a £2,000 donation at the time of the 1991 local elections. The former councillor said he wasn't surprised when Mr Dunlop called out to his home with the money, even though he had never before got a donation greater than £200.

Asked why he had voted in favour of rezoning the Paisley Park lands against the advice of the council's own officials, Mr Gilbride remarked: "My vote did not depend on what the planners would say. They were so negative about everything."

He believed he had only ever twice voted against a rezoning motion. Mr Gilbride said he would vote in favour of such motions, particularly if his party colleagues from the area supported the proposals. However, Judge Mary Faherty pointed out that three of the five Fianna Fáil councillors representing areas near Carrickmines had voted against the Paisley Park rezoning.

Mr Gilbride said he once spoke to Mr Dunlop in 1998 after a journalist had phoned him to ask if it was true that he had got £50,000 from the lobbyist. Mr Gilbride said he rejected the allegation and had asked Mr Dunlop to confirm this. He admitted he had also phoned Mr Dunlop following the latter's dramatic evidence to the tribunal in April 2000. "I heard he had collapsed and I rang his house to see how he was," Mr Gilbride said.

He also rejected Mr Dunlop's evidence that he had expressed concern about the evidence relating to Quarryvale and how much he had got from the lobbyist in relation to the project.

Mr Gilbride also expressed concern that other people had become aware of confidential information which he had given to the tribunal.

Mr Gilbride said he had been summoned to a meeting with the chairman of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in 1998 a few days after he had attended at Dublin Castle for a private meeting with the inquiry's legal team. Even though he had not discussed the matter with anybody in the party, Mr Gilbride said FF officials were aware of what he told the inquiry. The tribunal has denied allegations that any member of its team leaked information.

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