O’Callaghan: £25k payments ‘pure coincidence’

CORK businessman Owen O’Callaghan dismissed suggestions that he handed over a total of £25,000 to two Dublin politicians on the same day 15 years ago because they had backed a big building project.

He insisted it was “pure coincidence” that then-Dublin County councillors Colm McGrath and John O’Halloran each got money on November 9, 1993.

The £20,000 bulk of the amount went to Mr McGrath, after he had approached Mr O’Callaghan for help after running into trouble with the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr O’Halloran, who had formerly been a member of the Labour Party, received a cheque for £5,000.

Both sums were put down to expenses for Mr O’Callaghan’s Barkhill company. The property developer said he had not applied to his bank, AIB, for clearance “because they probably would not have agreed,” as the cheques were payments being made to politicians.

At the time the cheques were written, both men had been supportive of Mr O’Callaghan’s plans to develop land at Quarryvale, Co Dublin, now the site of the Liffey Valley shopping complex, and the issue currently being investigated by the long-running planning probe.

When tribunal counsel Patricia Dillon put it to him that the councillors had got their money in the form of a “paying off” because of their backing at a time when the Quarryvale project was progressed by Dublin Co Council, Mr O’Callaghan maintained: “No, they were separate issues. It was pure coincidence the cheques were written on the same day.”

Mr O’Callaghan has said he knows nothing about bribes former government press secretary Frank Dunlop told the tribunal he paid to secure support of Dublin County Council members on planning questions.

Mr O’Callaghan recruited Mr Dunlop to operate as a consultant on the Quarryvale project because of his contacts with politicians.

Quizzed about a £25,000 cheque he handed Mr Dunlop in September 1993, which was cashed a few days later, Mr O’Callaghan said he “did not have a notion” why the lobbyist had wanted that sum.

And asked whether it was possible that he had given Mr Dunlop the money to relay to someone else on his behalf, Mr O’Callaghan replied “Not at all; absolutely not.”

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