What the Planning tribunal report said about the key figures in the rezoning scandal

Former councillors, a sitting councillor and a businessman all involved


Former Fianna Fáil councillor Don Lydon sought and received a corrupt £3,000 payment from Frank Dunlop for supporting a motion to rezone land as industrial, according to the Planning tribunal report.

Mr Lydon “strongly denied” receiving the £3,000 cash payment for voting to rezone as industrial, 108 acres of Jackson Way land at Paisley Park. Mr Dunlop claimed Mr Lydon sought £5,000 in cash for his support, but settled for £3,000. He said there were two meetings, both at Mr Lydon’s place of work, St John of God’s in Stillorgan.

“The payment of £3,000 was corrupt,” the tribunal found. An examination of Mr Lydon’s bank account showed that on May 5th, 1992 the day after Mr Dunlop allegedly paid him, Cllr Lydon lodged £3,619.04 to his account.

Mr Lydon’s alibi evidence was that he could not have attended the meetings, in one case because he was at a funeral and the second time he addressed a conference. The daughter of the deceased whose funeral he attended, said she was “80 per cent, 90 per cent certain” Cllr Lydon and his wife were there.

A conference official was unable to confirm Cllr Lydon was there all afternoon. But the tribunal found his alibi “did not exclude the possibility” that he met Mr Dunlop at specific times. It accepted Mr Dunlop’s oral and documentary evidence about the meetings.

“This payment of £2,000 was corrupt” the tribunal said of a payment to former Fianna Fáil councillor Colm McGrath for supporting the rezoning of the 108 acres of Jackson Way Paisley Park land in 1992.

The Carrickmines chapter finding states “it is simply not credible that Cllr McGrath would have considered such a substantial cash donation . . . to have been anything other than a reward for having voted in a particular way”. Mr McGrath insisted it was “preposterous” he was paid to support the land rezoning. He considered “offensive” suggestions he had been paid to support rezoning.

He acknowledged he received political/election contributions of amounts from £500 to £2,000 in cash and cheques and accepted he had been lobbied by Frank Dunlop at various locations. The tribunal rejected Mr McGrath’s claim the £2,000 payment was a “bona fide political contribution”.

Mr Dunlop said the only bona fide political donation he made to Mr McGrath was £500 for a golf classic fundraiser.

Mr McGrath recalled Mr Dunlop calling to his office and slapping a copy of The Irish Times, in which £2,000 was hidden, onto his desk and saying “that’s a little something for your election”.

That payment was made when no election was pending.

Mr McGrath said he saw no connection between being lobbied by Mr Dunlop on the one hand and then receiving a substantial payment with no election looming.

Three payments totalling £9,000 paid to former Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave by Frank Dunlop for the rezoning of Carrickmines land were corrupt, the tribunal found.

It said the first £2,000 was paid in 1992 for supporting a motion in June that year to rezone 108 acres of Jackson Way/Paisley Park land.

In 1997 he was paid £5,000 and then £2,000, linked to six Carrickmines rezoning motions for Jackson Way and O’Halloran Consortium lands.

Mr Cosgrave was adamant he had not received any money from Frank Dunlop in 1992 for supporting the rezoning of lands and Mr Dunlop’s claims to that effect were “a lie”.

He did receive £2,000 in November that year,” long after” the June Carrickmines vote and he said this was an unsolicited election donation.

Mr Cosgrave denied receiving payments in 1997 for signing rezoning motions. Mr Dunlop said he paid Mr Cosgrave £2,500 at one meeting and £4,500 at another, £2,500 for the Jackson Way lands and £2,000 for the O’Halloran lands.

Mr Cosgrave later acknowledged being lobbied by Mr Dunlop and said he received “several legitimate political donations” from Mr Dunlop for Dáil, Seanad and local elections in 1992, ’93, ’97 and ’99. A further £1,815 payment he said was for legal services.

Payments totalling £7,000 to then Fianna Fáil, now Independent Councillor Tony Fox were corrupt, the tribunal found.

Cllr Fox denied receiving money for any purpose from lobbyist Frank Dunlop. “He did accept the possibility that Mr Dunlop could have made a small contribution to his election campaign fund through a third party or parties.”

Mr Dunlop claimed Cllr Fox sought money from him when he lobbied him to support Carrickmines land rezoning in 1991 before a special meeting of Dublin County Council. Mr Dunlop said he paid Cllr Fox £2,000 to support a rezoning motion at the June 1992 council meeting.

In 1997 he paid him £5,000 to support further Carrickmines rezoning.

The lobbyist claims that when he lobbied Cllr Fox, Mr Fox discussed the payment of money with him. When Mr Dunlop paid Cllr Fox £2,000 he said he handed over an envelope containing the cash, while walking the short distance between Conway’s bar and the O’Connell Street Dublin offices of the county council.

The £5,000 in 1997 was paid in two payments. There was an agreement that Mr Fox would be paid a total of £16,250 if the land was successfully rezoned. A sum of £1,250 was paid upfront in October 1997 and £3,750 before Christmas that year.

One of the motions to rezone 88 acres was defeated and another was not voted on.

Former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor played a significant role as an adviser and strategist in efforts to rezone Jackson Way lands, the Mahon tribunal has concluded. However the tribunal did not hear “evidence which established that as a matter of probability Mr Lawlor was or had been a beneficial owner of the Paisley Park/Jackson Way (PP/JW) lands”.

Lawlor, who died in a car crash in 2005, played a significant role in the rezoning bids before June 1991, when he was an elected councillor and subsequently when he was a TD. He remained a Fianna Fáil TD until 2002.

That role as an adviser and strategist, “was kept secret from others including most of Mr Lawlor’s political colleagues for fear that any known association between Mr Lawlor and the PP/JW lands would be likely to prove a hindrance in their attempts to rezone those lands”.

The tribunal found that his role as a strategist and adviser “was an abuse of his position as a councillor [until mid-1991] and as a TD”.

The Carrickmines section of the report also stated Lawlor’s involvement with lobbyist Frank Dunlop was corrupt. The tribunal was “satisfied that Mr Lawlor’s involvement was part of a wide-ranging corrupt relationship between himself and Mr Dunlop in which Mr Lawlor in reality used his position as an elected public representative for his own personal gain and the personal gain of others”, including Jim Kennedy and solicitor John Caldwell, co-owners of the Jackson Way lands.

The tribunal investigated Lawlor’s involvement with the PP/Jackson Way lands after a number of allegations were made including a claim by Mr Dunlop that it was largely through Lawlor he became aware of a “system” of payments to councillors in return for their support for rezoning and other motions in Dublin county council.

The insistence of former Fianna Fáil councillor Betty Coffey that a political donation from a developer was insufficient “compromised” her role as a public representative and was “improper”, the tribunal has found.

Developer Brian O’Halloran offered Cllr Coffey a political contribution of £250 in March 1996 during a fundraising event in Killiney Castle. She said she expected more. He then paid £1,000 to her, the report stated.

Ms Coffey told the tribunal she received no personal benefit from this because the cheque was passed on to her Fianna Fáil constituency organisation. She was certain the money Mr O’Halloran paid her had nothing to do with her decision to sign motions supporting the rezoning of lands he partly owned.

The tribunal found Ms Coffey’s insistence the £250 contribution was not enough was improper. It also stated Cllr Coffey initially told the tribunal Frank Dunlop made no payment of any nature to her, but she subsequently revealed he gave her £1,000 for the 1992 general election.

Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand, who died in 1996, received a corrupt £3,000 payment from Mr Dunlop for supporting the rezoning of 108 acres of Jackson Way/Paisley Park land, the report said.

Cllr Hand did not give sworn evidence to the tribunal but it accepted he had a “propensity to request money from Mr Dunlop in return for supporting particular rezoning projects”. The tribunal found in relation to the Paisley Park lands: “This payment of £3,000 was corrupt.” Cllr Hand was one of a number of councillors who expressed reservations about the rezoning and he initially sought a £10,000 payment.

The tribunal said Mr Dunlop had identified Cllr Hand as someone who sought payment and to whom money was paid for a number of rezoning projects. He claimed Cllr Hand sought £250,000 to support the Quarryvale rezoning.

A payment of £1,000 to former Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Gilbride support the 1992 rezoning motion of 108 acres at Carrickmines was corrupt, the report said. It said Cllr Gilbride sought and was paid £1,000 in cash by Mr Dunlop for supppoting the rezoning of Jackson Way lands.

Mr Gilbride said Mr Dunlop never offered or paid him money in relation to any rezoning motion. The former councillor told the tribunal he would have supported the rezoning of lands regardless of where they were if the motion carried the signature of a Fianna Fáil councillor. He told the tribunal he was unconcerned about the views of the council planners because they were there to make recommendations. “We were there to do the voting and make the plan.”

The Carrickmines chapter states: “This payment was corrupt.” The tribunal was satisfied Mr Dunlop “demonstrated a clear recollection of Cllr Gilbride seeking money in respect of and being paid money for his support for the rezoning motion of June 12th, 1992”.

The tribunal rejected lobbyist Frank Dunlop’s evidence that he paid IR£1,000 in cash to the late Fianna Fáil councillor Cyril Gallagher. “The tribunal was not satisifed that Mr Dunlop had a clear and definite recollection of a payment,” the report’s chapter on Carrickmines states. Mr Gallagher died in March 2000.Mr Dunlop had alleged he paid Cllr Gallagher the cash to ensure his support for the rezoning of the Paisley Park/Jackson Way lands.

The tribunal rejected as “unreliable”, evidence from Frank Dunlop that he had paid the late Fianna Fáil councillor Jack Larkin £1,000 to support the rezoning vote for Carrickmines land in June 1992. The report states “in the absence of any relevant corroboration, the tribunal did not find that any such payment had been made”.

Cllr Larkin died in May 1998 .

The tribunal has described as improper payments to former Labour and Independent councillor John O’Halloran. “Insofar as Cllr O’Halloran solicited and accepted such payments at times when he was aware that Mr Dunlop was a lobbyist in relation to rezoning issues current in Dublin County Council, including the Paisley Park/Jackson Way lands, then he did so improperly.”