Bribe councillors face naming threat

THE identity of councillors named by Frank Dunlop as having taken money in return for votes on a controversial South Dublin rezoning project may become publicly known today when the Flood Tribunal resumes hearings.

Of the nine councillors named by the PR consultant, six who are still alive are expected to reject any accusation the payments constituted a bribe.

Some are likely to be represented at today's hearing when Tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Feargus Flood, will hear applications for legal representation for the next stage of the inquiry's lengthy investigation into corruption in the planning system.

The hearing will examine land rezoning in Carrickmines, Co Dublin, including a site owned first by Paisley Park Investments and subsequently by another controversial offshore firm, Jackson Way Properties.

In May 2000, Mr Dunlop told the Tribunal he had paid a total of £25,000 to councillors to secure rezoning of the Paisley Park lands. The motion to rezone around 100 acres of these lands from agricultural to residential was proposed by Senator Don Lydon (FF) and the late Tom Hand (FG), but was defeated by two votes in 1993.

Mr Dunlop has named six Fianna Fáil, two Fine Gael and one Independent councillors as recipients of these alleged bribes. Three of those named are now deceased. They are Tom Hand (FG), reportedly paid £3,000 by Mr Dunlop, and Fianna Fáil councillors Cyril Gallagher and Jack Larkin who allegedly received £1,000 each.

The identity of the six other councillors, including a past and present member of the Oireachtas, have been withheld from publication for legal reasons, despite being widely known in media circles.

All the parties named by Mr Dunlop are expected to vehemently reject any accusation they sought money in return for their votes. Instead, they will argue the money was given as unsolicited political donations.

Mr Dunlop is understood to have told the Tribunal he paid politicians for their votes because it was the system which operated in Dublin Co Council at the time and was the only way to secure rezoning.

He also claimed the fact many of the payments were made around the time of local elections was a useful coincidence as they helped to disguise the payments as legitimate contributions.

During his last public appearance at the Tribunal, Mr Dunlop provided the inquiry with the names of the two promoters behind the Paisley Park project. They are understood to be the reclusive Isle of Man-based businessman Jim Kennedy and the Belfast-born solicitor John Caldwell. Former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor also has been linked with the project, although he denies any financial interest in the Carrickmines lands.

The same site was subsequently bought by Jackson Way Properties, an English-registered company whose ownership remained hidden until recently.

Earlier this month, Birmingham estate agent Alan Holland told an arbitration hearing in Dublin he is the sole owner and shareholder in the firm. Jackson Way is seeking €47m compensation from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co Council for lands acquired for the M50 motorway.

The Tribunal fought a lengthy legal battle with Jackson Way to find out the identity of its true owners, believed to be Irish-based.

The Tribunal will hold its first public hearing since last December in Dublin Castle this morning as it begins its latest module into allegations of planning corruption.

It is also the first occasion the planning inquiry has sat since the landmark publication of its interim report last month. In it Mr Justice Flood ruled former minister Ray Burke had received a series of corrupt payments from builders and other businessmen in the late 1980s. Today is also the first time the Tribunal will sit with its two new full members Judges Mary Faherty and Alan Mahon.

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