Planning tribunal pays €23m in third-party fees

Tribunal paid €8m in legal fees in last two years, bringing 10-year figure above €20m

George Redmond in 2012. The tribunal paid €419,000 in legal fees to the recently deceased former planning official. File photograph: Collins Courts

George Redmond in 2012. The tribunal paid €419,000 in legal fees to the recently deceased former planning official. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

The planning tribunal has generated almost €23 million in third-party legal fees over the past decade, including €8 million in the last two years, new figures show.

The latest payments include €1.4 million to lawyers for the late whistleblower and property developer Tom Gilmartin, and €419,000 in legal fees to the recently deceased former planning official, George Redmond.

Mr Redmond fought a long and ultimately successful legal battle to have his costs covered by the inquiry.

A sum of €738,315 was paid to MacGeehin Toale solicitors, who represented former Fine Gael council Tom Hand and his family. Mr Hand, who was found to have repeatedly sought corrupt payments, died in 1996, two years before the tribunal got under way.

Substantial payments for the legal costs of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and of individual party representatives, have been made since the start of 2014, according to the figures from the Department of Environment.

Fine Gael was paid €149,000 in legal fees last September and department records show this bill was the subject of mediation, which generated a further cost of €2,500 for the mediator.

Earlier phases

Among Fianna Fáil figures whose legal fees have been paid are former taoiseach Brian Cowen (€85,000), current party leader Micheál Martin (€96,000), former minister Batt O’Keeffe (€57,000), former senator GV Wright (€184,000) and former councillor Betty Coffey (€157,000).

Associates of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern who received their legal fees include party fundraiser Des Richardson (€116,000) and former Dublin Port chairman Joe Burke (€140,000).

Legal fees for Gráinne Carruth, Mr Ahern’s former secretary, came to €38,000. Ms Carruth’s dramatic evidence in 2008, when she broke down in tears in the witness box after admitting she lodged sterling amounts into accounts held by Mr Ahern and his daughters, played a major role in his resignation shortly after.

Publican Charlie Chawke, who fought a legal battle over the tribunal’s decision to withhold part of his costs, was paid legal fees of €16,000, as well as €79,000 representing his costs in litigation against the tribunal.

Corrupt payments

Liam CosgraveFrank Dunlop

As a result of legal challenges, the tribunal has been forced to withdraw many of the findings made in a report on former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke, and all of those in a report on Mr Redmond, both published more than a decade ago.

It says the review of these reports is nearly complete and redacted versions will be published later this year.

So far, the tribunal has cost €116 million, a figure which includes €52 million in fees for the tribunal legal staff and €33 million in administration costs.

The inquiry, which published its final report in 2012, still employs a skeleton staff but expects to wrap up this year. The projected final cost of the inquiry is €159 million.