Monahan 'boasted about bribes'

 

Developer Phil Monahan boasted about bribing former Fine Gael TD Seán Barrett in an effort to discredit the politician, lawyers for Mr Barrett have suggested.

Environmental activist Michael Smith alleged yesterday that the late Mr Monahan told him plans by his company, Monarch Properties, to rezone Cherrywood in south Dublin would go through because he was paying councillors.

In particular, Mr Monahan claimed Mr Barrett would ensure his Fine Gael colleagues from outside the area voted for the rezoning, according to Mr Smith, who was part of a residents' campaign against Monarch's plans in the early 1990s.

However, Paul O'Higgins SC, for Mr Barrett, accused Mr Smith of peddling Mr Monahan's malicious

rumour to journalists and said he was a coward for not printing it.

Mr Smith said the alleged remark was made outside a public meeting about Monarch's

proposal in 1992. Mr Monahan also claimed to be close to Mr Barrett, who insured his racehorses.

The allegation was the prime reason he later put up the money for a reward for information about planning corruption, an act that led to revelations by whistleblower James Gogarty and the subsequent setting up of the planning tribunal.

However, Mr O'Higgins said Mr Barrett had never insured the developer's horses. He accused the witness of the utmost naivety for believing Mr Monahan was behaving in a straightforward manner and said the allegation had greatly damaged Mr Barrett over the years.

Mr Smith said Mr Monahan had a mischievous twinkle in his eye and he agreed it was a possibility that he was seeking to discredit an opponent. He insisted he had acted scrupulously by passing the information only to those who could investigate the matter, such as journalists and the tribunal.

He acknowledged that Mr Barrett had spoken effectively in support of the residents against Monarch and expressed regret that the allegation had cast a shadow over the politician for so long.

In 1993, he had a row with Fine Gael councillor Olivia Mitchell, who accused him of engineering late-night calls to her home about the rezoning. Immediately after the vote that year which resulted in the rezoning of Cherrywood, he "caught" Ms Mitchell hugging a developer from Monarch.

It seemed to be improper that she was voting on an issue when she was close enough to hug a vested interest about the way the vote had turned out. "Councillors should not be passionate about the interest of developers."

Mr Smith also claimed councillor Betty Coffey introduced the late Liam Lawlor to him as "Fianna Fáil's planning expert", even though Mr Lawlor was not even on the council at the time.

He belonged to a number of organisations that campaigned aggressively against unsavoury developments in the Carrickmines Valley. They called on residents

to vote out "politicians on the fiddle", drew attention to the voting patterns of councillors on rezonings and called on voters to ring their local representatives.

He said he was horrified by the lies coming from Monarch in its publicity roadshow, which he described as "an exercise in manipulation and distortion".

He and fellow campaigners had done "everything democracy told you to do" and yet they lost. As a result of this "sewerage-led planning" by the council and dubious decisions by the councillors, the Carrickmines Valley was gone. In its place was a poorly planned development, underserved by public transport and a major contributor to gridlock.