Snapshots: Flood tribunal

by Colman Cassidy The Irish Times

(1)

Frank Dunlop 19 April 2000

Mr Frank Dunlop asked for a temporary adjournment yesterday when he became ill while giving his dramatic evidence in which he detailed the payments he made to Dublin County Councillors.
However, he was unable to return to the witness stand and the tribunal was told that he was under considerable strain and was unwell.
He began his evidence by confirming that he had reflected on his position overnight as he had been invited to do by the chairman, Mr Justice Flood.
“Yes, I’ll answer any questions on lodgements and disbursements to the best of my ability,” he told Mr Patrick Hanratty, SC for the tribunal.
The questions from counsel related to lodgements made to and payments from Mr Dunlop’s personal account in AIB Rathfarnham Road in mid 1991. He was asked to make a list of the sources of six lodgements.
Mr Dunlop proceeded to write down the names of the sources and then handed the list to the tribunal’s legal team. He was then asked to do the same with regard to disbursements from the AIB account.
“Are you in a position to say what the purpose of these payments was?” asked Mr Hanratty.
Mr Dunlop replied that it was for the 1991 local elections: “The money was paid at the time and was solicited.”
He was then asked whether it was in connection with the voting on the Quarryvale rezoning.
“No,” he said. There was an election on at the time: “It would be disingenuous to suggest that people who had voted for Quarryvale in the rezoning motion on May 16th were the people who were soliciting money for the election campaign.
Before adjourning the inquiry until May 9th, the chairman, Mr Justice Flood said that he would put the statement of names submitted by Mr Dunlop into a sealed envelope, which would then be locked in the tribunal’s internal safe. He said he wanted “the confidentiality of the tribunal to be respected in every regard”.

18 April 2000

Political lobbyist Mr Frank Dunlop told no other public relations person that it was the late Fine Gael Cllr Tom Hand who had requested £250,000 for supporting the rezoning of the Quarryvale site, he told the Flood tribunal yesterday.
“Did you tell anyone?” Mr Patrick Hanratty, counsel for the tribunal asked.
“I spoke to my legal advisers, Mr Colm Allen and Mr Hugh Garvey about it some time ago,” responded Mr Dunlop.
The tribunal was seeking to elicit the source of the story written by journalist Mr Sam Smyth and published in the Irish Independent last Friday in which Mr Hand’s alleged involvement was revealed along with the assertion that Mr Dunlop claimed he had told the Fine Gael leader at the time, Mr John Bruton.
He had not disclosed Mr Hand’s identity to Mr Smyth, who had told him that the source of his story was “Leinster House”, Mr Dunlop told the inquiry. But he had told “specific people” about the issue “going back to 1992”.
Whom had he told, Mr Hanratty asked. He was particularly interested in the names of the people who knew “all the information” that was contained in the article, “the people who were aware of the evidence you were going to give to that effect”.
Mr Dunlop wrote down a list of nine names, in line with the tribunal’s protocol of protecting the identity of potential witnesses until they had been given the right of reply. These were people whom he had told about the incident some time after the request for money had been made, he said. He numbered them 1 to 9 for the convenience of the tribunal.
He recalled a dinner in Rory’s Bistro Ballsbridge at which Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 9 were present. It was one of an “on-going series of convivial social occasions that those four people and myself indulged in”, he explained.
He would have paid for the dinner but probably recouped the expense later from Mr Owen O’Callaghan, the developer who had sought the rezoning of Quarryvale. He told his guests that a request for money had been made. He would have told them the location of where the money was to be lodged, later, including details of the documentation, the name of the bank, address, account number and so forth.
Had he told Nos. 1, 7 and 8 on the list?
“No. 1 certainly, 7 and 8 probably not,” he responded.
“Nos. 5 and 6?” inquired Mr Hanratty.
“No. 5 definitely not, 6 quite possibly.”
Given that he told these nine people in 1992, was there any reason why “nobody including yourself” had mentioned the incident to the Garda, asked the counsel for the tribunal. He had not gone to the Garda because he thought the matter would probably have been denied, said Mr Dunlop.
The article had described the political lobbyist as being “deeply upset and angry”, said Mr Hanratty.
“I was.” Yet he had not gone to the Garda? Mr Dunlop could say only that he had not.
Was the late Mr Hand the only person in Dublin County Council who had asked him for money?
“He was the only member who ever asked for money for a vote for rezoning.”
Did Mr Dunlop get requests for contributions from politicians on an on-going basis, Mr Hanratty inquired.
“No later than yesterday morning we received one,” responded the political lobbyist.
Earlier he told the tribunal in some detail about events surrounding the article in the Irish Independent. He had flown to Newark, New Jersey last Wednesday, the day after he had first given evidence to the Flood inquiry. Mr Smyth had contacted his office on Thursday morning. He in turn had contacted Mr Smyth who was looking for a comment on a story which he said had been sourced in Leinster House: “I told him I was constrained by the tribunal and could not comment.” Mr Dunlop subsequently phoned his solicitor, Mr Garvey, who advised him in relation to the tribunal’s protocol.
“You agree that the object of the protocol was totally undermined by the naming of Mr Hand?” asked Mr Hanratty.
He did, replied Mr Dunlop.
He was away from his hotel on business throughout the day. On his return there were three messages from Mr Smyth. The first said the journalist had made contact with the leader of Fine Gael, Mr John Bruton who had “gone ballistic” when told that Mr Dunlop claimed he had told him of Mr Hand’s request for money, at a function in the Red Cow Inn. The second said he had made contact with a number of Fine Gael councillors, some of whom were “ducking and diving on the issue”. The third simply said that Leinster House was “agog” with the story.
At 10.30 pm (3.30 a.m. Irish time) he had rung Mr Smyth again and eventually contacted him. He was told the story was going on the front page. Mr Smyth had said, “There’s nothing I can do”, and he left it at that, he told the tribunal.
His relaying of the three messages “sound suspiciously like sound bites”, Mr Hanratty challenged.
“I can’t say,” Mr Dunlop responded. “I’m on oath and obliged to answer the questions you ask me.”

(2) Michael Fingleton 18 April 2000

The chairman of the Irish Nationwide Building Society, Mr Michael Fingleton, who was summonsed to appear before the Flood tribunal yesterday, undertook to produce specific documentation detailing transactions negotiated through his society’s branch at Patrick Street, Cork, by this morning.
Mr Fingleton who was called as a tribunal witness after the building society had failed to produce the documentation, said that a search of the society’s records had failed to elicit details of the lodgments and withdrawals sought, as well as cheque journals and other journals for the period under review, March 15th 1987 to September 30th 1989.
While “looking for something else”, a number of boxes had been discovered last Friday: “We would hope to have something by this evening in relation to some of this documentation.”
The search had been the subject of “a long course of correspondence” between Irish Nationwide and the tribunal, Mr Patrick Hanratty, SC told the inquiry. The society had had since February 15th to produce the “limited categories” of documentation requested. It was “straightforward documentation” consisting primarily of bank accounts of the building society on which it drew its own cheques as well as the cheque journals for a limited period.
“We were looking for the documentation,” responded Mr Fingleton. “I assure the tribunal we have made every effort to comply and would hope to have something positive either today or tomorrow. Then you can discuss whether they’re all you require or whether you need more documentation.”
The society’s records were stored in a centralised archive system in Dublin, but a search there had failed to locate them. This centralised system had in fact moved around the various branches of the society in Dublin over the years including Camden Street, Grand Parade and Grafton Street, where some flood damage had been experienced some years ago: “We don’t know what was destroyed.”
This was not the only tribunal that had sought documents from the Irish Nationwide, said the chief executive. They had been searching for documents in respect of the Dail Public Accounts Committee investigation into DIRT as well.
“In view of the on-going difficulty, did he have any objection to the tribunal approaching the bank for the records in question, Mr Hanratty asked.
Mr Fingleton said he had no difficulty with this except for the matter of client confidentiality.
“The tribunal regards all such documents as confidential and treats them as such,” said Mr Hanratty.
“Then I’m happy with that proviso. If we’re covered by your powers in relation to client confidentiality, I have no problem.” It was agreed that he would write a letter of authorisation immediately to the bank on foot of this.
“Will you continue your endeavours to produce on foot of this summons – albeit belatedly – your own copies of these documents?” asked counsel for the tribunal.
“Yes, absolutely,” replied the Irish Nationwide chief executive.

The tribunal had faced some difficulty with the Bank of Ireland, too, in “obtaining the totality” of documentation it had sought in an order of discovery in relation to cheques transacted by Mr Tom Gilmartin Mr Hanratty said.
This referred to an order of discovery issued on January 6th that should have been complied with by February 10th.
The bank had raised difficulties in relation to its production, said Mr Hanratty. Ultimately a batch had been delivered and further material was made available “yesterday”. But some documents were still outstanding: “We still do not have an affidavit of discovery.”
Ms Dominique Cleary, solicitor for the bank, said that she was satisfied following discussions with the tribunal’s legal team that the order had been complied with. The cheques relating to Mr Gilmartin had been disclosed. The bank was satisfied there was nothing further to disclose.
Mr Hanratty could not agree. The problem appeared to centre on the Blanchardstown branch of Bank of Ireland and a number of cheques drawn on the account of Mr Gilmartin relating to Mr Liam Lawlor. The tribunal had received the consent of Mr Gilmartin to take up whatever documentation it was specifically seeking including copies of the relevant cheques.
The copy cheques came in on foot of the authority given by Mr Gilmartin, he said, “but it’s the documentation we’re seeking”. The tribunal needed all the relevant documentation relating to the relevant payments made by either Mr Tom Gilmartin or Arlington Securities.
The chairman, Mr Flood, agreed to put the matter back for mention at the tribunal on May 9th.

 

(3) BUILDER’S RACE TIPS LED TO CASH WINDFALL FOR REDMOND

 

The former Dublin city and county assistant manager, Mr. George Redmond, received a windfall of between £40,000 and £50,000 in race winnings over a period of 15 years as a result of tips from horse owner-builder Tom Brennan, the tribunal heard.

Mr. Brennan told Des O’Neill, SC for the  tribunal, he had known Mr. Redmond for about 35 years.  They were both members of Hermitage Golf Club and had played together a good deal.  They first met “some time in the 1960s”.  Mr. Redmond was in administration then, he recalled, not planning. Subsequently they met at Hermitage in the 1970s and became close friends.

“He knew  specifically a great deal about Dublin and development,” Mr. O’Neill suggested.  “Yes, and so did we,” responded Mr. Brennan.  In the early 1970s, he said, there was a great deal of land within the conurbation that was already zoned for development.

“Did Mr. Redmond advise you?” Mr. O’Neill asked.

“If I wanted to ask him a question I would feel free,” he replied.  The overriding feature of land development was proper financing and any information he picked up, said Mr. Brennan, he would discuss with Desmond McCarthy, an engineer who acted for Brennan & McGowan.

The question of payment never arose, said Mr. Brennan.  It did not come up.  I never paid him money.”

As well as the building and construction business, said Mr. Brennan, they owned and trained horses.  When a horse was “ready to go”, he explained, the trainer would indicate something to the effect that “the horse is well”.  He would then phone Mr. Redmond and say: “This horse has a chance – I’ll put something on for you.”

“Mr. Redmond would give you the money to put on, or was it from your own money?” asked Mr. O’Neill.

“Mostly from my own,” he said.  He placed successful bets for the former local authority official every two or three weeks, sometimes twice in the one week, Mr. Brennan told the tribunal.  The amounts varied between £100 and £200.

He had given tips to may people, he told Mr. O’Neill, but could not remember ever having done it for a politician or any other council official.

“George Redmond was the only local authority official for whom yuou processed bets? Asked Mr. O’Neill.

“He was,” replied Mr. Brennan.

They played a good deal of golf together up to the end of the mid-1980s, said Mr. Brennan. “Then George had trouble with his knee and did not play as much,” he added.  The last time I put money on a horse for him was in in the mid-1980s.

The tribunal chairman, Mr. Justice Flood, asked Mr. Brennan why he thought their relationship had “begun to fade” in the last couple of years.

He said he believed it was because of the bad knee, but some people thought it was because of the “compensation issue”.

In 1989, a Brennan & McGowan company, Grange Developments, was paid the largest single payment in Irish planning history when Mr. Redmond, then de facto Dublin county manager, signed a cheque for £1.9 million after the council was threatened with receivership.

He had known and campaigned at election times for Ray Burke, Mr. Brennan told the tribunal, but he had never taken part in fundraising.

(4)    FF braced to dump Burke

 

Fianna Fáil would have no problem in putting Mr. Ray Burke out to grass if his speech to the Dáil did not work, a party colleague allegedly told Mr. Joseph Murphy jnr on the day the former minister for foreign affairs addressed the State.

On September 10th 1996, the day of the fateful Dáil speech, Mr. Murphy had been contacted at work by his wife, who said that “a Dermot” had phoned but would not give his secnd name.

Mr. Murphy phoned Mr. Dermot Ahern on his mobile and said he had intended to contact him earlier, having pieced together what had happened to the £30,000 payment to Mr. Burke from information gleaned through Mr. Roger Copsey, the former JMSE financial director, solicitors of the land companies etc. “I wanted to clear up the information.

At two previous meetings he had conveyed that he had no knowledge of any payments made to Mr. Burke or any other politician, based on a review of the company’s cheque journal and other records. However, he had not said that was a full examination of the accounts, as Mr. Ahern had indicated.

Mr. Ahern, who was busy, thanked Mr. Murphy for the phone all and came back to him within 20 minutes.  He said Mr. Burke was making an important speech to the Dáil: “He said they wanted to help him as much as possible.  He wanted to know if JMSE had made contributions to other political parties so that Ray Burke could use it in his speech.  He said it would be a ‘good line’ or ‘ammunition’ with which Mr. Burke could attack the opposition parties.

Mr. Murphy said he had replied that JMSE had made small contributions of £300 to £500 “in good faith around election time” and intimated he would “not be happy if they used JMSE in this way” in the Ray Burke statement: “Mr. Ahern agreed that this would not be fair.”

Mr. Murphy had asked Mr. Ahern how it was looking for Fianna Fáil. “He said they were anxious to avoid a tribunal of inquiry.  If Ray Burke’s speech did not work, they would have no problem in putting him out to grass.”

Mr. Ahern had not remembered that, counsel suggested, when he gave his evidence to the tribunal: “To be fair, in the witness box Mr. Ahern had some difficulty, but all of that conversation occurred.”

It was “inconceivable” that he would not have told Mr. Ahern what he knew, given that Mr. Burke’s solicitors had written to the Murphy legal team “seeking out what we knew”.

 

END

 

 

 

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