Politicians held zoning key, inquiry told

ATTEMPTS by landowners to get property rezoned by Dublin Co Council were rarely successful without the assistance of local politicians, the Flood Tribunal heard yesterday.

Retired council official Sinéad Collins told the planning inquiry only rezoning motions proposed by councillors were generally passed by the local authority.

Ms Collins said rezoning proposals put forward by landowners rather than councillors were normally just noted and listed on the council’s agenda.

Although Dublin County Council had a duty to take every representation into consideration, Ms Collins agreed with tribunal counsel John Gallagher SC that no action was usually taken on proposals that came from landowners.

Ms Collins said if someone wanted their land rezoned they needed to submit a representation to the council and arrange to have a related motion proposed and seconded by councillors.

“If there wasn’t a motion submitted on a representation, it would not succeed,” Ms Collins said.

The tribunal is hearing evidence about the planning history of two properties in Carrickmines in south Dublin during the 1990s. Former Government Press Secretary Frank Dunlop has alleged he paid over £30,000 to nine councillors in return for their votes to have the lands rezoned. Voting records of the council highlighted by the tribunal yesterday show that eight of the councillors identified by Mr Dunlop as receiving payments ignored the advice of the Dublin city and county manager in June 1992 on a motion to rezone lands owned by Paisley Park Investments in Carrickmines.

They are: Liam Cosgrave (FG), Tony Fox (FF), Cyril Gallagher (FF), Seán Gilbride (FF), Tom Hand (FG), Jack Larkin (FF), Don Lydon (FF) and Colm McGrath (Ind). The other councillor named by Mr Dunlop, John O’Halloran (Ind), was not present at the council meeting.

The manager said the proposal by Cllr Lydon and seconded by Cllr Hand to rezone 108 acres to provide “a high quality job creation base for south Co Dublin” was unwarranted as the site was unsuitable for industrial development.

He recommended the motion should not be passed because of access difficulties to the Paisley Park property.

During a subsequent debate on the motion, Cllr Lydon and Cllr Hand were the only two of 13 politicians to speak who were in favour of the rezoning.

The tribunal has already heard claims that former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor was involved in behind-the-scenes efforts to have the land rezoned. It has also been told the ultimate beneficial owners of Paisley Park were tax exile Jim Kennedy and Belfast-born solicitor John Caldwell.

In a statement to the tribunal, Mr Caldwell stated he had never given any money to Mr Dunlop to give to politicians. He added Mr Lawlor had no beneficial interest in the property. Mr Caldwell said the council’s attitude to the rezoning of the land in 1997, when its ownership had transferred to Jackson Way Properties, had placed the firm in a “Catch-22” situation because of restricted access to the site.

He also claimed a Jersey-based solicitor, Nicholas Morgan, has failed to provide him with documentation relating to Paisley Park despite repeated requests. The High Court heard last year that Mr Morgan once provided Mr Lawlor with a loan of £600,000.

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