Key planning tribunal witness Tom Gilmartin dies
Developer gave critical evidence of planning corruption
Tom Gilmartin: described by his family as “a truly honest, honourable and courageous man”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Mr Gilmartin (78) passed away peacefully after a long illness in Cork University Hospital yesterday.
In a statement the family said Mr Gilmartin was “a much-loved husband, father and grandfather. We mourn the loss of a truly honest, honourable and courageous man. There will be no further media comment for the present.”
A now infamous interview on the Late Late Show by former EU commissioner Pádraig Flynn in 1999 led to a chain of events that culminated in the resignation of Bertie Ahern as taoiseach nine years later.
Mr Flynn was asked about allegations that he had taken a £50,000 bribe from Mr Gilmartin. Mr Flynn replied that neither Mr Gilmartin nor his wife were “well” – a remark which Mr Gilmartin took personally and he decided to testify at the Mahon tribunal investigating corruption in the planning process.
Originally from Co Sligo, Mr Gilmartin had a successful career as a developer in England and lived in Luton for most of his adult life. His involvement in Irish life came when he tried to a build a shopping centre in Quarryvale, west Dublin.
Mr Gilmartin gave colourful testimony to the tribunal. After having met with senior Fianna Fáil politicians with regard to his planning application, he was approached by an unknown man who demanded £5 million for redevelopment purposes.
Mr Gilmartin told him “you make the Mafia look like monks”. The tribunal found Mr Flynn had “wrongly and corruptly” sought a £50,000 payment from Mr Gilmartin in 1994 – which he used to buy a farm in Co Mayo in his wife Dorothy’s name.
Mr Gilmartin moved to Cork 10 years ago to look after his wife. His testimony that he had been told by developer Owen O’Callaghan that he, Mr O’Callaghan, had paid money to Mr Ahern led to a lengthy examination of the politician’s personal finances by the tribunal.
In its final report the tribunal said it did not accept Mr Ahern’s evidence in relation to certain lodgements to his bank accounts and could not say where the money had come from. Mr Ahern and Mr O’Callaghan denied any payments had been made.
Last year, in an article in The Irish Times, Thomas Gilmartin jnr said that without his father, “Ireland would never have found out about the corrupt activities of people like Frank Dunlop, nor the existence of a corruption ring at the heart of planning in Ireland.”
He said when his father came back to Ireland to give evidence he was not only disbelieved, he was put through a sustained and systematic process of vilification and ridicule by politicians up to and including the then taoiseach and his cabinet, and also by prominent journalists and commentators.