Fundraiser’s doubts over £150,000 payment by O’Callaghan

LONG-SERVING Fianna Fáil fundraiser Roy Donovan yesterday doubted that prominent businessman Owen O’Callaghan gave former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds £150,000 in Cork 13 years ago.

Developer Tom Gilmartin had alleged to the Mahon Planning Tribunal that his former business partner Mr O’Callaghan had bragged about handing over a £150,000 cheque to Mr Reynolds in the former’s home, in Cork.

A retired businessman, Mr Donovan expressed surprise at Mr Gilmartin’s claim.

Mr Donovan said he would be surprised if Mr Reynolds had stayed overnight in Cork after he travelled there for the private function.

“He was a night owl and I would have expected him to drive home,” he said.

Mr Gilmartin — a former partner in a west Dublin development project with Mr O’Callaghan — believed the alleged payment to Mr Reynolds was linked to the Golden Island development in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Mr Reynolds denies Mr Gilmartin’s allegation.

Tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon SC said individual donations of £5,000 — in bank drafts, cheques and cash — were made by guests at the private dinner on Friday, March 11, 1994.

A few days later, £50,000 was lodged to the FF party account, held in the joint names of Mr Reynolds and then finance minister Bertie Ahern, at the Bank of Ireland, Baggot Street, Dublin.

According to Mr Gilmartin, Mr O’Callaghan told him the function was held in his own house and that he gave the cheque to Mr Reynolds, who was “knackered”, at 3am, in a bedroom of the house.

Ms Dillon, however, said the dinner took place in the private house of local businessman Niall Walsh, on Glanmire Road.

According to Mr Gilmartin, Mr O’Callaghan said Mr Reynolds left next morning by helicopter — as he was going to the US for St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Donovan told the Tribunal he attended the private function to introduce people, as he was familiar with the Cork scene.

Mr Donovan didn’t see any money changing hands, but it could have happened in another room.

“No money changed hands in my presence. Nothing was given to me, and I was not aware of anyone collecting money.

“If the Taoiseach or a minister was present, we tried to avoid any exchange of money,” he said.

Former FF sports minister Frank Fahey could not recall meeting Mr O’Callaghan in connection with the national stadium planned for Clondalkin in the early 1990s, or seeing any documents relating to the proposed stadium.

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