Flood hearing should be private, judge says

 

The Flood planning tribunal should hear in private any allegations made by a key witness, Mr James Gogarty, against the former assistant Dublin city and county manager, Mr George Redmond, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr Justice Kelly said Mr Gogarty was to give evidence to Mr Justice Flood from January 12th. Mr Redmond, who retired 10 years ago, has been subpoenaed to appear.

Mr Justice Kelly granted Mr Redmond leave to seek an order of prohibition and a judicial review of a decision of the Flood tribunal to conduct a public inquiry into allegations by Mr Gogarty against Mr Redmond.

The judge said he was not precluding the tribunal proceeding to hear such allegations as might be made against Mr Redmond, but such an examination should or ought to be in private, pending the tribunal's decision on the veracity of the allegations.

The tribunal might decide the allegations were without foundation and demonstrably untrue. The judge said he believed Mr Redmond's character should remain blameless in the public mind on grounds which included natural and constitutional justice. If the tribunal decided the allegations were warranted, it might be entitled to publish its conclusions.

Mr Redmond in an affidavit said there were essentially two allegations made against him. Mr Gogarty claimed to have met Mr Redmond twice in 1988 about planning permission regarding lands at Forest Road, Swords, Co Dublin. Mr Gogarty asserted that Mr Redmond gave advice on "a mechanism to overcome the problems caused by the 1983 planning permission running out".

Mr Gogarty alleged Mr Redmond gave this advice under an agreement or arrangement with Mr Liam Conroy (who Mr Redmond understood to be an employee and/or director of one or more of the various companies controlled by Joseph Murphy snr) whereby Mr Redmond would be paid for the advice.

There was also an allegation that Mr Redmond received an envelope that Mr Gogarty believed contained £15,000 in cash at a meeting between Mr Redmond, Mr Gogarty, Mr Frank Reynolds, Mr Michael Bailey and Mr Joseph Murphy jnr at Clontarf Castle in June 1989.

This payment was allegedly to compensate Mr Redmond for not being engaged as consultant by the group of companies controlled by Joseph Murphy snr.

He said these allegations were without foundation. While he met Mr Gogarty in 1988 and advised on lands at Forest Road, he never had any understanding whereby he would be paid for such advice, nor did he expect payment.

He never met Mr Joseph Murphy jnr or Mr Frank Reynolds. The allegations were untrue and demonstrably absurd and utterly inconsistent with other documents Mr Redmond had given the tribunal.

As for the cash allegation, this was fantasy. Mr Redmond said he never had any arrangement with any person or company to be engaged as a consultant by them after he retired.

His solicitors, Anthony Harris and Co, concluded that the planning tribunal chairman was exceeding his powers in the way he was purporting to inquire into the allegations. And the tribunal's decision to allow unfounded allegations by Mr Gogarty to be aired in public was grossly unfair.

Mr Redmond said the tribunal chairman had widened the interpretation to be given paragraph A5 of the terms of reference because it would authorise the tribunal to investigate any matter related to the planning process.

He had attended voluntarily at the tribunal's offices on December 15th to answer questions by tribunal counsel and dealt with the Gogarty allegations.

Mr Redmond said that, when one considered these allegations, one realised they were inconsistent with those made earlier by Mr Gogarty and that his evidence was unreliable.

There had been a meeting with gardai on April 21st, 1997, at which Mr Gogarty made significantly different allegations against Mr Redmond regarding Forest Road, and made no allegations about the meeting in Clontarf Castle where it was alleged Mr Redmond received £15,000.

Mr Justice Kelly told Mr Gerard Hogan SC, for Mr Redmond, that he might not agree with Mr Hogan's view regarding the tribunal's interpretation of the terms of reference. The paragraphs preceding A5 set out the beneficial ownership of lands, the planning history, the various resolutions and applications made and the persons involved.

Mr Hogan said that originally it had been indicated that the tribunal sought to investigate Mr Redmond about a specific planning matter detailed in paragraph A4 of the terms of reference or under paragraph A5. The tribunal had indicated it would not be appropriate to proceed against Mr Redmond under paragraph A4, and it appeared Mr Gogarty's allegations were being dealt with under paragraph A5.

Mr Hogan said it appeared the tribunal was saying that under paragraph A5 it could investigate in public any matter that might loosely be called "planning corruption" which might have occurred at any time in the State's history. Such terms of reference were beyond its powers.

The matter was adjourned to January 11th.