Claim Reynolds on O’Callaghan payroll ‘rubbish’

THE Mahon tribunal yesterday heard claims that ex-taoiseach Albert Reynolds was on the payroll of a top property developer branded as “outrageous fantasy”.

Cork businessman Owen O’Callaghan said the allegation was a figment of his former partner, Tom Gilmartin’s, imagination.

He told the planning probe that contrary to evidence from Mr Gilmartin — once an ally in early 1990s plans to develop land at Quarryvale, Co Dublin, but later a bitter rival — he had never given money to Mr Reynolds or requested him to influence the State’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) in connection with his project.

Mr O’Callaghan agreed he was a friend of Albert Reynolds and a strong supporter of the Fianna Fáil party. But of Mr Gilmartin’s charge that the ex-taoiseach and other top politicians had been on his payroll, he declared: “It is another segment of his fantasies, I am afraid. It is absolute rubbish.”

About the “unbelievable” allegation relating to the IDA, as well as suggestions that he had bought sites close to Quarryvale for his own purposes, the developer added: “It was one of those things that Tom Gilmartin put his own spin on.

“His is a peculiar mind. I had been speaking to the IDA about getting them to promote units for Quarryvale and he fantasised about the whole conversation we had about that.”

As well as Mr Reynolds, Mr O’Callaghan has denied making payments to a number of other top Fianna Fáil figures, including Bertie Ahern and former minister and European commissioner Padraig Flynn.

He confirmed at the tribunal that he had assisted Fianna Fáil financially but said he had never made personal donations to Mr Reynolds.

He told the inquiry judges “Tom Gilmartin has a huge imagination. Most of the outrageous things he said can be traced back. He goes on a fantasy trail and comes up with some terrific stories.”

But Mr O’Callaghan said that when the late Liam Lawlor had demanded a £10,000 payment in a cheque made out to cash, he had not reported the matter to Mr Reynolds or other members of the Fianna Fáil leadership.

“I appreciated Mr Lawlor had done a lot of work for me. But I had a problem in making out a cheque for cash rather than to Liam Lawlor. But he would not accept it that way,” he said.

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