Former Government press secretary Frank Dunlop was today jailed for 18 months and fined €30,000 for corruption after bribing councillors to rezone land around Dublin for lucrative development deals.
The one-time lobbyist among Ireland’s political elite admitted five counts of corruption more than eight years after first disclosing his role in the sleaze scandal.
Dunlop (aged 62) of Dunboyne, Co Meath, pleaded guilty to making payments of between IR£1,000 and IR£3,000 (Irish punts) to several politicians to re-zone swathes of land around Dublin for development.
Dunlop could have faced maximum penalties of up to seven years in jail and/or a €50,000 fine for the corruption charges.
Judge Frank O’Donnell, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, sentenced Dunlop to two years in jail with the last six months suspended.
“Word must go out that the corruption of politicians or anyone in public office will attract serious penalties,” the judge said.
“This requires a custodial sentence that amounts to more than a rap on the knuckles.”
Dunlop hugged and kissed his wife and daughter in the courtroom before leaving through a side door with prison guards.
The judge had told him that although there were no readily identifiable victims of his crime, he had no doubt his actions seriously undermined the confidence of the public in our democratic system.
“In this case the public, institutions of the state and the democratic public are the victims” he added.
Judge O’Donnell said the former lobbyist’s motive was generated by gain and that even over a five-year period he had no hesitation in renewing his corruption activity.
“You had every opportunity to reflect what you were about,” he added.
Dunlop showed little emotion after the sentencing, other than embracing his family.
He admitted that in 1992 and again in 1997 he was given cash on behalf of landowners and in return bribes were paid to induce politicians to vote in favour of zoning 108 acres at Carrickmines, south Dublin, for industrial and residential use, as part of the Dublin Development Plan.
He told officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) that he handed money over to the councillors at different locations in Dublin, including Buswell’s and Davenport hotels, both a short walk from the Dáil, and St John of God’s Hospital.
Former senators Don Lydon, of Fianna Fáil, and Liam Cosgrave, of Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil councillors Sean Gilbride, Tony Fox, and Colm McGrath are among those named on the charge sheet. All have denied any wrongdoing, but the court heard Dunlop is willing to testify against the men if charges are brought.
In January Dunlop, who had been charged with 16 counts of bribing Dublin county councillors, pleaded guilty to five sample counts of corruption.
The other 11 have been taken into consideration.
The judge said he accepted evidence that Dunlop’s social, business and family life had been affected by his admissions and that he had suffered serious heart conditions from the stress of the legal proceedings.
But he maintained these matters were a natural consequence of his actions and not penalties.
Judge O’Donnell said he was not aware of what payments had been made to Dunlop, but said he was a willing participant who targeted those who were to be approached.
“As a former officer of Fianna Fáil and press officer of Government you exercised considerable influence and held a dominant position as far as councillors were concerned,” he continued.
“You were perceived as a person with access to influence those in higher authority.”
He said Dunlop carried out his actions over a long period of time.
“Some people who come before me knowingly and willingly commit their crime through a haze of addictions,” added Judge O’Donnell.
“What you did, you did with long-range focused criminal intent.”
Sentencing Dunlop, the judge imposed a one-year jail term in respect of three of the counts, a two-year sentence for one charge, and a two-year sentence and €30,000 fine on the final count.
He suspended six months of the two-year sentence and told Dunlop the fine must be paid in six months.