Councillors took bribes, says tribunal

Four councillors and a millionaire businessman who were at the centre of a collapsed planning corruption trial last week had received bribes from political lobbyist Frank Dunlop in return for rezoning favours, the Mahon Tribunal has found.

A previously unpublished chapter of the final report found that four politicians — Don Lydon, Colm McGrath, Liam Cosgrave Jr, and Tony Fox — had accepted corrupt payments for their votes in support of the controversial rezoning of lands in Carrickmines, south Dublin, during the 1990s.

It concluded Dunlop — a former government press secretary — had paid a total of £25,000 corruptly to six former members of Dublin County Council including Lydon, McGrath, Cosgrave, and Fox on behalf of the landowner, Jim Kennedy.

The trial of the four men and Kennedy on charges of corruption collapsed last week due to the deteriorating health of Dunlop, the sole prosecution witness.

Publication of the chapter relating to the lands owned by an offshore company, Jackson Way Properties, was delayed by the tribunal because of concern that it might have prejudiced the trial because of its adverse findings against the accused.

Dunlop remains the only person convicted of corruption as a direct result of the inquiry which was established in 1997. He served a total of 14 months.

Kennedy, the main owner of Jackson Way, is facing a separate legal action by the Criminal Assets Bureau that he has been unjustly enriched as a result of the alleged corrupt rezoning.

The 66-year-old amusement arcade owner and property investor, who refused to return to Ireland from Gibraltar to give evidence to the tribunal, had denied 16 charges of making corrupt payments.

Dunlop revealed he paid a total of £15,000 to eight councillors in bribes and a further £10,000 in 1997 to two of those councillors in relation to Carrickmines.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that Kennedy and solicitor John Caldwell were the beneficial owners of Jackson Way. It also concluded the late Fianna Fáil TD, Liam Lawlor, had played an active role as an adviser to rezone the lands

It was not satisfied that Caldwell was aware of Dunlop’s modus operandi of making corrupt payments.

The tribunal claimed alibis provided by Lydon did not exclude the possibility he had received bribes from Dunlop on specific dates.

It noted the late Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand had a “propensity” to seek money from Dunlop for supporting various rezonings.

The inquiry rejected claims by McGrath that a £2,000 payment from Dunlop represented a bona fide political donation.

It found Cosgrave had directly solicited £7,000 of the £9,000 he received from the lobbyist. Another former FF councillor, Betty Coffey, had improperly sought an increase in a political donation from £250 to £1,000 from the owners of land adjacent to the site.

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