Dunlop tells trial he gave councillors cash for votes

Former lobbyist says he made payments on behalf of businessman James Kennedy

Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 19:19

A former political lobbyist has told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he made cash payments to county councillors to secure their votes for the rezoning of land.

Three former councillors and a sitting councillor have gone on trial accused of receiving corrupt payments in relation to council votes that took place in June 1992 and October 1997.

Businessman James Kennedy (66) is charged with making the payments.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Seán Gillane SC told the jury that this was a case about the payment of money for votes.

He said they would hear evidence Mr Kennedy corruptly gave money to named councillors through political lobbyist Frank Dunlop so that votes could be secured in relation to the rezoning of lands owned by Mr Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, of Cormorant Way, Queens Quay, Gibraltar, pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of making corrupt payments between June 1992 and October 1997 to members of Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to rezone land at Carrickmines as industrial.

Not-guilty pleas
County councillor Tony Fox (72) of Mountainview Park, Churchtown, Dublin, and former councillors Colm Mc Grath (56) of Swiftwood, Saggart, Donal Lydon (74) of Santo Antonio, Stillorgan Park Avenue, and Liam Cosgrave (57) of Merrion Park, Blackrock, have pleaded not guilty to corruptly receiving money at various locations in Dublin on dates in June 1992 and October 1997 as inducements to rezone lands as industrial.

Mr Dunlop (65) told Mr Gillane that in 1989 he established a public relations company which had a variety of clients, corporate and otherwise.

He said that in 1991 he was referred to Mr Kennedy by John Caldwell, from the solicitors firm Binchy and Co, and was told Mr Kennedy had 108 acres of land in Carrickmines, known as Paisley Park. He said a short time later he went to meet Mr Kennedy.

This first meeting took place in the basement of Mr Kennedy’s business, an amusement arcade on Westmoreland Street. Mr Dunlop said that Mr Kennedy told him he wanted help in having his lands rezoned as part of the 1993 development plan before Dublin County Council.

Mr Dunlop said that, at the time, the land was zoned as agricultural and that Mr Kennedy told him it was impossible to use it for this purpose any more. He said the accused told him he wanted it rezoned as residential or industrial.

The witness told the court: “He recognised that to achieve the purposes he desired, notwithstanding any technical merit of the proposals, councillors would have to be paid money for their services.”

He said he agreed to accept £25,000 in cash “in full knowledge that a portion of that money would be used to give money to councillors”.

Mr Dunlop said it was also agreed that he would be paid a “success fee” of £100,000 if the proposal was successful and the lands were rezoned.

He said the cash was not handed over then but that he went back to the basement premises shortly afterwards and the accused gave him £25,000.

Mr Dunlop said he then undertook to lobby councillors to support a motion to rezone the land.

He said: “I met a large number of councillors from across parties. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I outlined the proposal and sought their support.

“I got indications of support in some instances without reference to money, in others with reference to money.” He described the meeting of Labour Party councillors as “something of a futile exercise”.

Mr Dunlop described making cash payments of £1,000 to county councillors Sean Kilbridge, Jack Larkin, Cyril Gallagher, all since deceased, in the run-up to and after a council vote on the rezoning proposal on June 12th, 1992. He said he paid £3,000 to Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand, since deceased, in May 1992.

‘Only one currency: cash’
Mr Dunlop went on to describe making payments to the four former councillors who are on trial. Having been asked a number of times how the payments were made, he told Mr Gillane: “I don’t mean to be facetious but there was only one currency. Cash.”

He said he met Don Lydon on May 4th, 1992, at his offices at St John of God Hospital, Stillorgan. He said that Mr Lydon signed a motion to propose the rezoning of the land and he paid him £3,000.

He said he sought the support of Tony Fox for the motion and paid him £2,000 on a date between the vote on June 12th, 1992, and his holiday later in June.

The witness said he received the support of Colm McGrath and paid him £2,000 after the vote during a meeting at his offices in Clondalkin.

He said he contacted Liam Cosgrave to elicit his support for the proposal and paid him £2,000 in a meeting at either the environs of the Dáil, at Buswells Hotel or at the council offices.

Mr Dunlop said he was in the council offices when the motion to rezone the lands to industrial was voted on.

It was ultimately defeated by about two votes.

Mr Dunlop said that in 1996 and 1997 he met again with Mr Kennedy to discuss the opportunity arising from the fact that the newly formed Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council was working on a new development plan.

Mr Dunlop said Mr Kennedy told him “quite bluntly” that he wasn’t going to give him any more money but agreed to pay £250,000 in the event of the land being rezoned.

‘Success fee’
He said Mr Kennedy acknowledged that councillors would need to be paid. During another meeting the “success fee” was changed from £250,000 to Mr Dunlop receiving the commercial value of one rezoned acre of land in Carrickmines.

Mr Dunlop said he approached Mr Cosgrave who told him it would be difficult to get the motion passed but that he would propose and support it for “a consideration” which was agreed at £5,000.

He said he paid over £2,500 to Mr Cosgrave during a meeting at the Davenport hotel on October 30th, 1997.

In December 1997 the two men met at Buswells Hotel and Mr Dunlop said he paid the accused the remaining £2,500 promised.

He said he also paid him £2,000 “in consideration of the efforts he had made in relation to another body of land in the Carrickmines Valley owned by persons other than Mr Kennedy”.

The trial continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of eight women and four men. It is expected to last until the end of this month.