Dunlop: I paid councillors cash to secure votes for land rezoning

A former political lobbyist has told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he made cash payments to county councillors to secure their votes for the rezoning of land.

Dunlop: I paid councillors cash  to secure votes for land rezoning

Three former councillors and a sitting councillor have gone on trial accused of receiving corrupt payments in relation to council votes that took place in Jun 1992 and Oct 1997.

Businessman James Kennedy, aged 66, is charged with making the payments.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Sean Gillane told the jury that this is a case about the payment of money for votes.

He said they would hear evidence Mr Kennedy corruptly gave money to named councillors through political lobbyist Frank Dunlop so that votes could be secured in relation to the rezoning of lands owned by Mr Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, of Cormorant Way, Queens Quay, Gibraltar, pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of making corrupt payments between Jun 1992 and Oct 1997 to members of Dublin County Council to rezone land at Carrickmines as industrial.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councillor Tony Fox, aged 72, of Mountainview Park, Churchtown, and former councillors Colm McGrath, aged 56, of Swiftwood, Saggart, Donal Lydon, aged 74, of Santo Antonio, Stillorgan Park Avenue, and Liam Cosgrave, aged 57, of Merrion Park, Blackrock, have all pleaded not guilty to corruptly receiving money at various locations in Dublin on dates in Jun 1992 and Oct 1997 as inducements to rezone lands as industrial.

Mr Dunlop, aged 65, told Mr Gillane that in 1989 he established a public relations firm that had a variety of clients, corporate and otherwise.

He said that in 1991 he was referred to Mr Kennedy by John Caldwell, from the solicitors firm Binchy and Co, and was told Mr Kennedy had 108 acres of land in Carrickmines, known as Paisley Park. He said a short time later he went to meet Mr Kennedy.

This first meeting took place in the basement of Mr Kennedy’s business, an amusement arcade on Westmoreland St. Mr Dunlop said Mr Kennedy told him he wanted help in having his land rezoned as part of the 1993 development plan before Dublin County Council.

Mr Dunlop said that, at the time, the land was zoned as agricultural. Mr Kennedy told him it was impossible to use it for this purpose any more. He said the accused told him he wanted it rezoned as residential or industrial.

The witness told the court: “He recognised that to achieve the purposes he desired, notwithstanding any technical merit of the proposals, councillors would have to be paid money for their services.”

He said he agreed to accept Irl£25,000 in cash “in full knowledge that a portion of that money would be used to give money to councillors”.

Mr Dunlop said it was also agreed he would be paid a “success fee” of £100,000 if the proposal was successful and the lands were rezoned.

He said the cash was not handed over then but that he went back to the basement premises shortly afterwards and the accused gave him £25,000.

Mr Dunlop said he then undertook to lobby councillors to support a motion to rezone the land. “I met a large number of councillors from across parties, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I outlined the proposal and sought their support.

“I got indications of support in some instances without reference to money, in others with reference to money.”

He described the meeting with Labour councillors as “something of a futile exercise”.

Mr Dunlop described making cash payments of £1,000 to councillors Sean Kilbridge, Jack Larkin, Cyril Gallagher, all since deceased, in the run-up to and after a council vote on the rezoning proposal on Jun 12, 1992. He said he paid £3,000 to Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand, since deceased, in May 1992.

Mr Dunlop went on to describe making payments to the councillors who are on trial. Having been asked a number of times how the payments were made, he told Mr Gillane: “I don’t mean to be facetious but there was only one currency. Cash”.

Mr Dunlop said he was in the council offices when the motion to rezone the lands to industrial was voted on. It was ultimately defeated.

The trial continues.

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