Planning tribunal approves costs payout to two builders
Volte-face by Judge Alan Mahon on fees
Joe McGowan (left) and Tom Brennan: the tribunal originally refused them their legal costs but reversed the decision later after settling legal proceedings. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The planning tribunal has approved the payment of multi-million euro costs for two builders who it found had made corrupt payments to former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke.
The tribunal originally refused Tom Brennan and Joseph McGowan legal costs of €2.6 million but reversed its stance after settling legal proceedings taken by the two men.
Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan submitted a claim for costs last September, which hasn’t yet been paid, the Department of Environment confirmed yesterday. The bill is subject to assessment by the Taxing Master, who may reduce the final sum to be paid.
The department said it has paid over €420,000 in legal fees to 12 different parties since the start of this year. Recipients include former Fianna Fáil ministers Seán Haughey and Ned O’Keeffe, who were paid legal fees of €18,944 and €6,626 respectively.
The volte-face by tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon on the fees of Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan follows a 2010 judgment of the Supreme Court overturning its refusal to pay the legal costs of two directors of JMSE, Joseph Murphy jnr and Frank Reynolds, who had been found to have hindered and obstructed the inquiry.
The effect of this judgment was to limit the grounds on which the tribunal could refuse costs to parties, even those subject to adverse findings. This in turn is likely to add to the cost of the inquiry, which is expected to exceed €300 million.
Following this judgment, Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan, as well as Century Radio founder Oliver Barry, took separate legal proceedings seeking their costs.
Judge Mahon made orders for costs for Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan in March 2012, but refused to review his 2004 order refusing costs of €610,000 to Mr Barry. He was also found to have hindered and obstructed the tribunal in its inquiry into his payment of £30,000 to Mr Burke.
The chairman’s refusal of costs to Mr Barry is currently the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court, according to the Department of Environment.
Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan were Ireland’s largest housebuilders in the 1970s, turning out more than 700 houses a year. However, they were frequently criticised for the quality of their work and a failure to complete some estates. They were the target of more litigation by Dublin County Council than any other builder.
Mr Brennan was also a major benefactor of former assistant county manager George Redmond. He told the tribunal he paid Mr Redmond £50,000 in a succession of small payment and gifts over 20 years by placing bets for him every two or three weeks.