Jealousy not in my makeup, says Gilmartin

BUSINESSMAN Tom Gilmartin yesterday denied inventing his evidence to the Mahon Planning Tribunal because he was jealous of the success of rival Cork-based property developer, Owen O’Callaghan.

“Jealousy is not in my makeup. I am not one bit envious about anybody — including Mr O’Callaghan,” Mr Gilmartin told lawyer Paul Sreenan SC, for Mr O’Callaghan.

Mr Sreenan had put it to him he couldn’t cope with Mr O’Callaghan being successful when he himself was not, so he felt there must be corruption behind it. “You were prepared to spin a lie about it,” he suggested.

Mr Sreenan questioned why Mr Gilmartin had told tribunal lawyers about a meeting in Cork in 1987 to discuss the Lee Tunnel project — without mentioning the most important person, Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, being present.

Mr Gilmartin conceded he mistakenly had mentioned Albert Reynolds’ name instead of Mr Haughey’s. Mr Gilmartin alleged Mr O’Callaghan told him about the Cork meeting in the Royal Dublin Hotel on December 7, 1988 when they first met to discuss the possibility of working together on a Dublin project.

The tribunal is probing the west Dublin Quarryvale development initiated by Mr Gilmartin, which Mr O’Callaghan took over when the Sligo-born developer ran into financial difficulties and was made bankrupt.

Mr Gilmartin alleged Mr O’Callaghan told him Mr Haughey was behind a proposed change of the tunnel route to favour Mr O’Callaghan’s land at Mahon and that Mr Haughey favoured a bridge over the Lee, rather than a tunnel under it, because it was cheaper.

The witness agreed it would be a serious allegation to say Mr Haughey had organised the alteration of the Lee Tunnel to suit land owned by Mr O’Callaghan. Asked why he didn’t mention this to tribunal lawyers, Mr Gilmartin said he probably omitted it.

Mr Sreenan went on: “You are inventing things, making them up as you go along, and that inconsistency is the hallmark of someone who is not telling the truth.”

Counsel then suggested Mr Gilmartin had “picked up snippets of what you were told by Mr O’Callaghan, put them in the tapestry of lies in your mind, and regurgitated them for this tribunal. We all understand you have a grievance, and this is vengeance time”.

Claiming he had caught Mr Gilmartin out in a blatant lie, Mr Sreenan said Mr O’Callaghan acquired the Mahon site by public tender.

He had no interest in the site in 1988, having acquired it in 1997 for a shopping centre he now owned. No decision had been made on the tunnel before 1990.

Explaining why he had not referred to Cork in his tribunal statement, Mr Gilmartin insisted tribunal lawyers indicated they were interested only in corruption in the Dublin area.

Mr Gilmartin also alleged how Mr O’Callaghan bragged he had caused senior Fine Gael politician Hugh Coveney to resign from Fine Gael over a Bord Gáis controversy.

$45,000 question: Ahern currency claim is speculation, AIB expert tells tribunal

AIB CURRENCY expert John Garrett agreed at the Mahon Planning Tribunal yesterday it was “speculation” that $45,000 was lodged into a bank account for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in December 1994.

Mr Ahern’s former partner Celia Larkin — who lodged IR£28,772.90 into an account in her name for Mr Ahern’s benefit — and the Taoiseach both deny any dollar transaction took place. Both are listed to testify to the tribunal next week.

When the probe began some weeks ago, tribunal lawyer Des O’Neill SC had stated: “A customer presenting exactly $45,000 for exchange into Irish currency on December 5, 1994 would have received exactly IR£28,772.90.”

Mr Garrett told Mr Ahern’s lawyer Colm Ó hOisín SC he had not seen any bank documents showing $45,000 was lodged at the AIB branch in Dublin’s O’Connell St on that day.

He said the tally roll used by the foreign exchange teller to log the amounts received that day did not now exist. There could be an error in transcribing, he conceded.

The tribunal is probing Mr Ahern’s private finances — specifically four substantial bank lodgments — arising from businessman Tom Gilmartin’s claim that Cork-based developer Owen O’Callaghan told him he gave the Taoiseach IR£80,000 in return for political favours.

Earlier Conor Maguire SC, for Mr Ahern, accused the tribunal of producing a document in pursuit of a particular agenda or a particular hypothesis. The document, he submitted, suggested a connection that did not exist and “incorrect extrapolations” were being made by the tribunal.

Mr Maguire called for evidence to be given by the author of a tribunal document used to support the tribunal’s “hypothesis” that $45,000 had been lodged.

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