Tribunal spreads its corruption sweep

THE Flood Tribunal's spotlight is focusing on around 100 councillors involved in planning decisions following its damning verdict on Ray Burke's corrupt practices.

The past and serving members of Dublin County Council have given statements to the tribunal, and some have attended private interviews with the inquiry's legal team at Dublin Castle.

Much of the tribunal's attention is focusing on councillors who supported the rezoning of lands in North Dublin for which Ray Burke received a corrupt payment of £30,000 in 1989.

The planning history of the 726 acres of land shows councillors consistently ignored the advice of the local authority's own planning officials in their decision to rezone large tracts of the properties.

It is also investigating the Quarryvale rezoning decision, which came to light after lobbyist Frank Dunlop admitted paying councillors cash for their planning votes.

Up to 30 Dublin politicians and 14 landowners are implicated in a widespread network of corruption linked to the rezoning.

Mr Dunlop, a lobbyist and former Fianna Fáil press adviser, paid £250,000 to councillors at periods when Dublin County Council was voting on controversial plans.

He has also identified 14 separate property developments for which he received money to bribe politicians.

Meanwhile, a senior trade union official has called for Mr Burke's role in issuing oil exploration licences in the late 1980s to be examined by the Flood Tribunal.

Padraig Campbell, of SIPTU's national offshore committee, questioned whether there was any corrupt motive behind the decision taken by Mr Burke, as Energy Minister in 1987, to relax the terms and conditions for the granting of drilling licences which favoured oil and gas companies.

"In light of the findings that Ray Burke was corrupt, the dramatic and drastic alteration to the terms for issuing new licences to explorations companies should be examined," said Mr Campbell. "What happened represented the sell-off of our natural resources to foreign companies." Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael conducted internal party inquiries when the Dunlop payments came to light in May 2000 to find any elected party members who had taken cash for votes.

Fianna Fáil's probe resulted in the expulsion of Dublin West TD Liam Lawlor from the party.

Fine Gael's investigation named three councillors who it said it was "unable to come to a definitive conclusion" over.

Cllrs Liam Cosgrave, Cathal Boland and Anne Devitt rejected any allegation of wrongdoing when the probe's results were published.

The 100 councillors under the Flood Tribunal's spotlight have been asked to answer questions about any payments they have received from property developers over the past three decades.

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