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Rezoning, holidaying with Redmond and a secret map: Mahon's verdict on developer Jim Kennedy

The businessman was at the centre of the recent corruption trial which collapsed when witness Frank Dunlop fell ill. Today, Mahon has had its say on his involvement with lands in Carrickmines.

Developer Jim Kennedy in 2010.
Developer Jim Kennedy in 2010.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE RECENT COLLAPSED corruption trial which featured lobbyist Frank Dunlop as the star witness for the State featured businessman Jim Kennedy. Kennedy had been charged with directing that bribes be given to councillors in order to secure their vote for rezoning lands in Carrickmines.

Today, following the collapse of that trial, the Mahon Tribunal into planning and payments has been legally allowed to publish its chapter of findings into the Carrickmines rezonings. Kennedy is a key figure in this chapter.

This is what the final Mahon report on Carrickmines has to say about him:

The Tribunal has a footnote to describe James (Jim) Kennedy as a property developer and auctioneer based in Lucan, Co Dublin. Jim Kennedy refused to take part in the Tribunal’s inquiry into payments for rezoning:

Mr Kennedy refused to give evidence to the Tribunal, and his absence outside the jurisdiction rendered his attendance unenforceable by subpoena.

It concludes that he was on “friendly terms” with the former assistant Dublin County and City manager George Redmond – this is significant because of the allegations Redmond made about interests he claimed Kennedy and his business partner had in lands around Carrickmines.

This is the footnote:

Mr Kennedy was a Lucan based auctioneer and property developer. He claimed to be a majority shareholder in an amusement arcade in Westmoreland Street in Dublin and owned the ‘Laurels’ licensed premises in Clondalkin. He was a business partner of Mr John Caldwell and was also on friendly terms with Mr George Redmond, (the Assistant Dublin County and City Manager until 1989). Mr Kennedy denied that Mr Redmond loaned him and his business partner IR£110,000 in 1980. Mr Lawlor described Mr Kennedy as a friend. In correspondence with the Tribunal, Mr Kennedy (who refused to give evidence to the Tribunal), denied that he had any interest in the Carrickmines lands or in any company associated with them.

Involvement with Frank Dunlop

In October 2000, lobbyist and PR consultant Frank Dunlop alleged that he was paid IR£25,000 in cash by James Kennedy “for the express purpose of bribing councillors to support the rezoning of the PPP/JW lands” in Dublin City Council’s 1983 Development Plan. (PP/JW lands refers to lands bought by Paisley Park Investments around Carrickmines which was transferred into the Jackson Way Ltd group in 1992).

Dunlop had first met Kennedy by arrangement, he said, at Kennedy’s amusement arcade in a basement strong room on Westmoreland Street. This was on 19 or 20 January 1991. This, said Dunlop, was the first time he became aware of the Carrickmines lands or any application for their rezoning.

What was Dunlop himself promised by Kennedy for his intervention? (note: according to Dunlop; Kennedy denies it.) At first a ‘success’ fee of £250,000 if lands were rezoned in the 1998 Development Plan by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. This fee was then allegedly changed to a sum equal to the value of one commercial acre of the lands. Once they had been rezoned, this would have been a very sweet sum indeed as land prices were inflated by the possibilities for development.

In relation to whether Kennedy had ownership of lands that would have benefitted from rezoning, the Tribunal states:

Whilst the Tribunal was unable to definitively identify all of the beneficial owners of the PP/JW lands it was satisfied that, as claimed by Mr Caldwell, both he and Mr Kennedy, (and, for a short period, Mr Sam Stanley), were beneficial owners.

Robert Tracey – a landowner whose lands he said Kennedy tried to take an option on to buy in the late 1980s – claimed that Kennedy said he would need to throw money to Fianna Fáil and “three fellows” in the Planning Office to secure rezoning. Tracey’s evidence was supported by a statement made to gardai in 1989 by his brother, Jack Tracey, since deceased.

The Tribunal accepted in its conclusions in today’s report that Kennedy had retained Dunlop to help him push through rezoning decisions. It added:

The Tribunal also accepted Mr Dunlop’s evidence that Mr Kennedy conveyed to him that he (Mr Kennedy) was aware that money would have to be paid to councillors as part of any rezoning campaign in order to secure sufficient councillor support.

His relationship with George Redmond

They also claimed that they were told they would have to “take care of George Redmond” too and that Kennedy was related to Redmond through marriage and they went on holidays together. Sam Stanley also gave testimony to this effect about the friendly relationship between Redmond and Kennedy, saying Kennedy would “probably boasted about it”.

Redmond himself denied the holidaying together bit, but did allege that he had reprimanded Kennedy for referring to their “close relationship”. He also gve a “loan” totalling £110,000 to Kennedy and one of his business partners in late 1980 – no documents were prepared in relation to this loan.

Getting hold of a confidential county council zoning map

A number of witnesses at the Tribunal claimed that an official of Dublin County Council passed on a confidential council map of the Carrickmines lands “which contained sensitive and (then) unpublished information relating to the proposed rezoning of those lands) – and that this map got passed on to Kennedy. One said:

I felt duped, I felt that I had been used by somebody to get a map for Jim Kennedy, but I was not going to get involved at that stage. I knew enough about Jim Kennedy to stay well away from him.

The Tribunal concluded in its report that Kennedy did indeed get his hands on the map and that:

The Tribunal was satisfied that the confidential and commercially sensitive information contained in the map prompted Mr Kennedy and Mr Caldwell to complete the purchase of the PP/JW lands, certain in their expectation that the value of the lands would increase enormously when rezoned for development.

Kennedy’s relationship with Liam Lawlor

Frank Dunlop claimed that Kennedy told him he had been referred to him by TD Liam Lawlor – a man Dunlop said Kennedy described as “very helpful” and who would continue to be helpful in relation to the rezoning of the PP/JW lands.

However, Dunlop also claimed that Kennedy was “annoyed” when Liam Lawlor voted for the 1983 development plan for the area NOT to be changed during a special meeting of Dublin County Council on 24 May 1991. Despite this blip, he maintained that Lawlor continued to advise Kennedy and Dunlop on how to carry on with trying to get the PP/JW lands rezoned from agricultural use.

Kennedy and the O’Halloran consortium

Evidence to the Tribunal alleged that Kennedy had “joined forces” with the O’Halloran Consortium of developers on swapping information and strategies that might help both in getting lands rezoned. Brian O’Halloran claimed that he “didn’t want to cross Mr Kennedy’s path because Mr Kennedy was a much more powerful property owner in the Valley than we were” and that Kennedy had recommended they retain Frank Dunlop’s lobbying services. Brian O’Halloran said he thought it was essentially a “marketing service” and engaged Dunlop on that basis.

Payments to councillors

The Tribunal has concluded that lobbyist Dunlop did pay thousands of pounds in bribes to some Dublin councillors to rezone land in Carrickmines along what is now the M5o route. It also concluded that he did so on foot of receiving funds from Jim Kennedy.

Liam Cosgrave, Don Lydon, Colm McGrath and Tony Fox – who were on trial along with Kennedy until last week on allegations of corruption – did receive corrupt payments, the Tribunal concluded.

The late FG councillor Tom Hand and the FF councillor Sean Gilbride also allegedly received corrupt payments, said Mahon.

Why did we have to wait so long for Mahon’s final chapter?>

Frank Dunlop bribed councillors for rezoning of M50 lands>

Carrickmines: Final chapter of Mahon Tribunal report is published>

Everything you need to know about the Mahon Tribunal>

The who’s who of the Mahon Tribunal>

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