Builder at centre of tribunal must pay 75% of costs

THE director of the construction company which built the controversial home of former minister Ray Burke in Swords has been refused the vast majority of his legal costs by the Planning Tribunal.

The tribunal chairman, Judge Alan Mahon, yesterday awarded Michael (Jack) Foley, of Oak Park Developments, just 25% of a €26,668 legal bill he had submitted to the inquiry.

Mr Foley made a brief appearance before the tribunal in May 2001 to answer questions about his role in the construction of a large house called Briargate in Swords in the early 1970s on behalf of two developers, Tom Brennan and Joe McGowan for the benefit of Mr Burke.

In his landmark report of September 2002, Judge Mahon’s predecessor, Mr Justice Feargus Flood, concluded that the manner in which Mr Burke obtained Briargate from Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan for little or no money represented a corrupt payment.

Mr Justice Flood said he was satisfied that the two developers and Mr Foley had not given a truthful account of how Mr Burke had come to acquire the property.

The corrupt ex-minister sold Briargate a few years ago for almost €4m in order to meet a €10.5m legal bill arising from his involvement with the inquiry.

Yesterday, Judge Mahon noted that the section of the report in which adverse findings of failure to co-operate with the tribunal were made did not contain any specific references to Mr Foley.

The chairman said it was not a matter for him to speculate why Mr Justice Flood did not make any special finding against the builder.

However, he pointed out that it was clear from the report that the tribunal did, in fact, make an adverse finding against Mr Foley.

“This is a significant finding and clearly indicated that Mr Foley failed to fully assist the tribunal as he is required to do,” said Judge Mahon.

He claimed this fact had to call into question Mr Foley’s entitlement to receive his legal costs. The chairman acknowledged that it was “extremely difficult and probably impossible” to decide to what extent Mr Foley’s own attitude to the inquiry was responsible for the costs he had incurred.

However, he deemed that it was fair, reasonable and equitable for the State to pay only 25% of the bill Mr Foley had submitted.

The ultimate sum to be paid out in legal costs by the State will be determined by the Taxing Master of the High Court.

He awarded full legal costs to several other parties who had co-operated with the inquiry.

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