Tom Gilmartin, who was in his late 70s, died at Cork University Hospital yesterday morning.
Mr Gilmartin was a key witness at the Mahon Tribunal into planning corruption and gave evidence of repeated demands for corrupt political payments by politicians and councillors after he returned to Ireland from Britain in the 1980s and tried to develop the Quarryvale shopping centre, now known as Liffey Valley, in west Dublin.
His evidence exposed a corruption ring that infested the planning process during the late 1980s and early 1990s and where everyone from taoiseach Charles Haughey down “were looking for a piece of the action”.
Mr Gilmartin told the tribunal that then minister for the environment Padraig Flynn requested a cheque for £50,000 as a donation to the Fianna Fáil party, on the understanding that Mr Flynn would help remove obstacles he was encountering in relation to the development of the Quarryvale site. Eventually, after being harassed by a number of politicians, councillors, and planners, a disillusioned Mr Gilmartin returned to Britain, where he remained undecided about giving evidence to the tribunal.
However, Mr Flynn made his now infamous appearance on The Late, Late Show denying he received any payment and claiming Mr Gilmartin and his wife were not well and were “out of sorts”.
The Sligo-born businessman saw the show on satellite television and was so angered that he returned to Ireland to testify.
The Mahon Tribunal believed Mr Gilmartin’s evidence stating Mr Flynn, a former EU Commissioner, “wrongly and corruptly” sought the £50,000 donation for his own benefit.
Later, Mr Gilmartin’s evidence led to a lengthy examination of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s financial affairs after Mr Gilmartin said Cork developer Owen O’Callaghan told him he had made payments to Mr Ahern.
Both Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Ahern denied the allegations, but Mr Ahern resigned as taoiseach in 2008, saying he was leaving office early partly as a result of the ongoing tribunal probe into his affairs.
Mr Gilmartin’s evidence led to the exposure of a number of corrupt officials, including the late Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor, corrupt “bagman” Frank Dunlop, and former Dublin assistant city and county manager George Redmond.
In a statement, Mr Gilmartin’s family said: “We will greatly miss a much loved husband, father, and grandfather. We mourn the loss of a truly honest, honourable, and courageous man.”
Mr Gilmartin is survived by his wife Vera and four children.