Lobbyist alleges O’Callaghan funded Fianna Fáil councillor

PROPERTY developer Owen O’Callaghan funded Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Gilbride when he took leave of absence from a teaching job to work full-time on the businessman’s Quarryvale project in west Dublin, it was alleged at the Mahon Tribunal yesterday.

But lobbyist Frank Dunlop, who was employed to co-ordinate the Quarryvale project, claims he discovered the developer’s private arrangement “by accident” when Mr Gilbride rang him in late September 1992 requesting payment.

Mr Dunlop admitted in evidence yesterday it would have caused controversy if it had been revealed Mr Gilbride had received monthly payments from the developer when he voted on the Quarryvale development in 1993.

In his statement to the tribunal, Mr O’Callaghan has said he paid Mr Gilbride a total of £15,500 but stressed this was to allow him to concentrate full-time on the general election and Senate elections.

The lobbyist told tribunal lawyer, Patricia Dillon SC, that when he checked with Mr O’Callaghan he was told Mr Gilbride was in effect acting as a consultant for Mr O’Callaghan, and the money was to recompense him for what he would be due if he remained teaching.

While fellow members on Dublin County Council commented that Mr Gilbride was no longer working with the Dublin VEC, it was not common knowledge he was being paid by Mr O’Callaghan before the final Quarryvale vote in November 1993.

Between September 1992 and April 1993, Mr O’Callaghan’s company Riga Ltd paid Mr Gilbride a total of £15,500. There were six payments of £1,750 and one of £5,000 during the seven-month period. All were listed in Mr O’Callaghan’s documents as political contributions.

Mr Dunlop has told the tribunal he had already paid a £12,000 bribe to Mr Gilbride to support Quarryvale in 1991 — disguised as donations in connection with the upcoming local elections — but said he did not discuss this payment with Mr O’Callaghan.

In previous evidence Mr Dunlop said he paid the £12,000 in cash at Mr Gilbride’s request for his continuing support for Quarryvale. Asked why he didn’t raise this earlier payment with Mr O’Callaghan, Mr Dunlop said while in retrospect it might appear to people it was an ideal opportunity, he did not discuss it with Mr O’Callaghan.

When he phoned Mr O’Callaghan after Mr Gilbride’s contact for his £1,750 monthly payment, Mr Dunlop said the essence of the conversation was that Mr O’Callaghan asked him to meet the payment and he did so. “That was Mr O’Callaghan’s wish,” said the witness. “Mr O’Callaghan was the boss.”

Asked later if he paid this £1,750 — when there was no cheque from his bank account that would equate to a direct payment of that sum to Mr Gilbride — Mr Dunlop conceded that if he paid the money he must have given it to Mr Gilbride in cash.

Ms Dillon recalled Mr Gilbride saying he received no money from Mr Dunlop other than £2,000 in cash in June 1991.

She suggested it was unlikely Mr Dunlop made the requested £1,750 payment to Mr Gilbride, given that Mr O’Callaghan’s first payment to Mr Gilbride was a cheque for £1,750, dated September 30, 1992. Mr Dunlop said he would agree.

In a further reply, Mr Dunlop said he had “always believed” he made a payment to Mr Gilbride on foot of the telephone call Mr Gilbride had made to him in relation to the payment he was due from Mr O’Callaghan.

Questioned on what he knew about Mr O’Callaghan’s arrangement with Mr Gilbride, Mr Dunlop said Mr O’Callaghan told him he had entered into an arrangement with Mr Gilbride, who had taken leave of absence to devote his attention full-time to the Quarryvale project.

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