No one else likely to face trial in planning corruption case

Frank Dunlop would be central to any future prosecution

Frank Dunlop:  claimed he paid former Fianna Fáil councillor Don Lydon £3,000 in May 1992.

Frank Dunlop: claimed he paid former Fianna Fáil councillor Don Lydon £3,000 in May 1992.


After four weeks of evidence and a 12-year tribunal inquiry into planning corruption in Dublin, it is looking likely the only person who will ever be convicted of corruption is former lobbyist Frank Dunlop.

Dunlop, who had a public relations company in the 1990s when extensive land banks in Dublin were being rezoned by councillors, served 14 months in prison after pleading guilty to corruption in connection with the rezoning of one of the those land banks, at Carrickmines in south Dublin.

Yesterday the case against the councillors whom he alleged he had paid £19,000 in connection with that rezoning collapsed.

During the trial, Dunlop claimed he paid former Fianna Fáil councillor Don Lydon £3,000 in May 1992 at St John of Gods, where he worked as a psychologist, to support the rezoning. But Lydon told gardaí he was at a funeral the day the handover was alleged to have taken place. He said he didn’t need a bribe and was happy to support the rezoning.

The court was told former Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave denied he received £7,000 for his Carrickmines vote. But he did say he received a political donation from Dunlop in 1992, of £2,000. He suggested Dunlop was making the allegation against him to “protect his own interests”.

Suitable for development
Former Fianna Fáil councillor Colm McGrath told gardaí Dunlop visited him at his office in 1992 and left behind a copy of The Irish Times with £2,000 inside it. He “vehemently denied” it was a bribe and said he “put it in a drawer” and used it for office and political expenses. He supported the rezoning because he thought the land was suitable for development, he told gardaí.

Independent councillor Tony Fox, who had been a member of Fianna Fáil, denied he had received £2,000 from Dunlop in July 1992 while he walked between Dublin County Council offices on O’Connell Street and Conway’s Pub on Parnell Street. He also denied a further payment of £5,000.

“Frank Dunlop didn’t give me any money and I absolutely did not ask for any money,” he told gardaí.

He described the allegations against him as outrageous.

More than 90 per cent of the cross-examination of Dunlop by Michael O’Higgins SC, on behalf of the owner of the land, Jim Kennedy, had been completed and counsel for the remaining defendants were awaiting their opportunity to cross-examine when the trial collapsed yesterday.

Pale and tired
Dunlop had looked determined enough to continue when he returned on Monday after a break of more than a week. He did his best to counter the insistent questioning by O’Higgins. But by lunchtime Dunlop was looking pale and tired. After lunch he asked to be excused, and did not return to the court.

Criminal Assets Bureau
Det Garda Martin Harrington told the court that files related to six other land banks, which had been the subject of
Mahon tribunal inquiries, were sent to the DPP in October 2004.

These were Cherrywood in south Dublin, Cargo Bridge near Dublin airport, O’Mahony Fox lands in Portmarnock, Lissenhall near Swords, Pye lands in Dundrum and lands at Baldoyle.

So far nothing has come of them. Given Dunlop would be central to any future prosecution and is unable to continue in this case, it seems unlikely he would be capable of giving evidence in any other case.

The Mahon tribunal held back its chapter on the Carrickmines module pending the results of this criminal trial. The way is now cleared for the tribunal to publish it, for what it’s worth.