Bank manager supports Gilmartin's allegations

 

A FORMER Bank of Ireland manager has come forward to support claims made by developer Tom Gilmartin at the Mahon tribunal.

Richard Cogan, originally from Cork and formerly a bank manager at Bank of Ireland Luton, said Mr Gilmartin told him at the time that he had been driven around pubs in Dublin in search of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

He said he recalled Mr Gilmartin complaining that the detour meant he had almost missed his flight back to England.

Mr Cogan also said that it was he who advised Mr Gilmartin to donate £50,000 to Fianna Fáil.

Mr Cogan, who now works as a business and financial consultant in London, said he discussed the Mahon tribunal with Mr Gilmartin and encouraged him to talk, but did not want to get involved himself.

"Then when I heard what [Owen] O'Callaghan was saying about Tom I did try to get involved," he said.

He said he spoke to the tribunal registrar who put him in contact with solicitor, Susan Gilvarry. But, though he phoned her six times and she returned his calls, they did not make contact before the tribunal wound down, he said.

A spokesman for the Mahon tribunal said he could neither confirm nor deny contact between any person or business and the Mahon tribunal.

Mr Gilmartin gave evidence to the Mahon tribunal in 2006 and 2007 as part of an investigation into planning corruption surrounding land at Quarryvale, west Dublin. He had said that in September 1990 the chairman of the Dublin Port Authority Joe Burke, then a member of Dublin County Council, had asked him if he would be prepared to pay money because Mr Ahern, then minister for labour, was "looking after him".

Mr Gilmartin had also said Mr Burke offered to drive him to Dublin airport and brought him to Fagan's pub in Drumcondra and two other pubs to find Mr Ahern.

Mr Burke vehemently denied that the incident had ever taken place.

In evidence to the Mahon tribunal, he said the allegation was outrageous. "I was one of the few people who had access to the then minister for labour's mobile phone and I didn't have to drive around the city like a headless chicken looking for him," Mr Burke said

Mr Cogan told The Irish Times he recalled Mr Gilmartin complaining about the event at the time. "He told me about searching for Bertie Ahern days after it happened," he said.

"He complained that he nearly missed his flight and that he was asked for money."

He said he was Mr Gilmartin's bank manager in Luton from 1978, and was aware of his development projects in Northampton and Milton Keynes.

He said Mr Gilmartin was a well-respected businessman in England and attempts to paint him as a buffoon or a fantasist, who was incapable of handling a big deal, were very unjust and untrue.

"Tom is a highly intelligent guy," Mr Cogan said. "He has operated at a very high level in the past. He could be quite embarrassing in a meeting sometimes because he said what he thought but . . . he had done deals at a high level many, many times."

Mr Cogan said that when Mr Gilmartin began to complain to him about problems he was having with planning in Dublin, he recommended Mr Gilmartin pay £50,000 to Fianna Fáil.

"I was over and back to Dublin twice a week . . . I was not only a senior manager at the time but also a member of the executive committee of IBOA [Irish Bank Officials Association]," Mr Cogan said. "I knew the situation in Dublin."

The money was paid to Pádraig Flynn in May 1989, but was meant for Fianna Fáil, Mr Cogan said. The suggestion made at the tribunal by counsel for Owen O'Callaghan, Mr Gilmartin's business partner in Quarryvale, that Mr Gilmartin had paid bribes, was ludicrous, he said. Mr Gilmartin had also complained about Frank Dunlop and Liam Lawlor, he said.