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The who’s who of the Mahon Tribunal

The longest-running inquiry in the history of the State has concluded its report – these were some of the names it focused on.

Judge Alan Mahon
Judge Alan Mahon
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

IT HAS BEEN the longest running public inquiry in the history of the State, hearing evidence from over 400 witnesses.

The tribunal last sat in December 2008 and we waited until today for every final finding of the Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, as it is officially known.

There have been four interim reports confirming corruption in the planning process and which established a number of findings. The revelations and findings from the tribunal have also resulted in a number of criminal convictions.

The fifth and final report was published in March of last year. A redacted final chapter, Chapter 19, was published today.

TheJournal.ie has assembled a guide to the key players in the 15-year long proceedings:

The Judges

Judge Feargus Flood

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The judge was appointed to head the tribunal when it was established in November 1997 in response to allegations that the then recently resigned government minister Ray Burke had received illegal payments. Justice Flood acted as the chairman of the tribunal and was its only member up until shortly before he resigned in June 2003.

His resignation after 75 months had been expected after he had written to the government to outline that he would be unable to continue due to the undue strain proceedings would put on him. He recommended that his recently acquired assistant Judge Alan Mahon be appointed to replace him as chairman.

Judge Alan Mahon

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Mahon was appointed as Flood’s replacement to carry on his work and was assisted by circuit court judges Mary Faherty and Gerald Keys from 2003 up until the present day. The tribunal last sat in public in December 2008 and has since then been compiling its report, a process which has faced several delays due to legal challenges regarding costs.

Main witnesses

Bertie Ahern

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The tribunal has arguably claimed the unprecedented scalp of a sitting Taoiseach as Ahern’s reputation never quite recovered from the revelations the tribunal heard in 2008.

Indeed prior to that, the decision of the tribunal to suspend sittings during the 2007 general election campaign was arguably key to Ahern securing a third term in office. But that would not last long as it was alleged the Fianna Fáil leader received payments from developer Owen O’Callaghan. Both denied the allegations and the tribunal heard evidence from Ahern who said that payments he received had been “dig-outs” during the time of his separation from his then wife in 1993 and 1994.

During evidence to the tribunal, Ahern claimed that at that time that he did not have a bank account. The then Finance Minister instead cashed cheques. He said that sterling payments to him were the result of betting on horses and later said that all the money he was given in ‘dig-outs’ was paid back and where in instances people didn’t accept it, he gave it to charity.

Ahern has consistently denied any wrongdoing. He resigned in May 2008 under the cloud of the Mahon Tribunal and the evidence he had given.

The Bailey Brothers

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Michael, or Mick (L), and his younger brother Tom Bailey (C), run the Bovale Developments company and were the subject of the biggest tax settlement with the Revenue in the history of the State when they agreed to pay €25m in June 2006.

The report of the then Flood Tribunal noted that the Baileys hindered and obstructed the tribunal proceedings by giving false accounts of their dealings with whistleblower James Gogarty. Mick Bailey’s “will we f***” response to Gogarty’s query about getting a receipt for a political contribution – something Bailey denied – was one of the tribunal’s most memorable disclosures.

Ray Burke

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The former Fianna Fáil TD, government minister and Dublin City Council chairman’s connection to planning corruption was what sparked the establishment of the tribunal in the first instance.

In 1997, as Bertie Ahern sought to form his first government, Burke was at the centre of allegations that he had received a IR£80,000 payment from a property developer. He denied this allegation but would resign from the cabinet and the Dáil just four months after he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Burke was at the centre of allegations of illegal payments in return for favourable ministerial decisions related to the granting of a licence to the now-defunct and short-lived Century Radio station. In its report in September 2002, the tribunal said that Burke had received a corrupt payment in connection with the granting of a licence for Century Radio.

It also noted that James Gogarty, the principal whistleblower in the whole affair, had said that Burke had received a corrupt payment – witnessed by Gogarty - from the aforementioned developer Michael Bailey in June 1989. He was jailed in 2005 after he pleaded guilty to not paying tax on undeclared income. He served four months at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin and has maintained a low profile since he was released.

Gráinne Carruth

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Bertie Ahern’s former secretary disclosed to the Tribunal in March 2008 that she had lodged sterling cheques on behalf of Ahern in the 1990s, a damning revelation that would eventually lead to Ahern’s resignation as Taoiseach. Carruth, who earned less than IRL£3,500, was in tears as she delivered the revelation that directly contradicted Ahern’s previous evidence to the tribunal.

Frank Dunlop

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The former broadcaster, government advisor and Fianna Fáil press secretary appeared in the witness box for 124 days over the course of seven years, even suffering a heart attack at one point. He was a key witnesses who disclosed details of payments he made to politicians on behalf of developers in the early 90s.

The disclosures came about in an extraordinary turn of events in April 2000 at what was then the Flood tribunal. In light of his disclosures or lack of in the witness box, Chairman Flood asked Dunlop to reflect on his position overnight. The following day Dunlop returned to the witness box and disclosed payments to a number of politicians at the time of crucial rezoning votes at council meetings relating to land at Carrickmines in Dublin.

Dunlop would eventually confess to involvement in more than 20 corrupt rezonings and was later charged with corruption over these payments and sentenced to two years in prison with the final six months suspended. He was released in July 2010.

Pádraig Flynn

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The former Fianna Fáil  TD, government minister and European Commissioner known also as ‘Pee’ Flynn came to prominence after his appearance on the Late Late Show in 1999 in which he said he “never asked or took money from anybody to do favours for anybody in my life”.

At the Mahon tribunal in April 2008 he denied accusations that he personally benefited from a IR£50,000 donation from developer Tom Gilmartin that was meant for Fianna Fáil. He claimed at the time that the money was a “personal political donation” and described himself as an honest and honourable man. The tribunal heard that Flynn attempted to get Gilmartin to lie about the payment and its purpose. Flynn denied this.

Tom Gilmartin

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The property developer said that he gave a cheque for IR£50,000 to Flynn who was then Environment Minister during a period when he was trying to develop a shopping centre in west Dublin –  a development which later became Liffey Valley.

Flynn’s denial in his infamous Late Late Show appearance angered Gilmartin to such an extent that he decided to alter his previous stance of non-cooperation with the tribunal and give evidence saying that Flynn had tried to get him to lie and change his version of events which was that the payment was for the Fianna Fáil party.

Gilmartin also told the tribunal in 2004 that he met former minister Ray Mac Sharry on two occasions to discuss plans for the development of a shopping centre. He said that McSharry has brought him to meet a number of cabinet members including future Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Mac Sharry denies this and Ahern denies having been at the meeting.

Gilmartin also claimed at the tribunal that he was told by an unidentified man in the corridor of the Dáil that he could ‘end up in the Liffey’ after refusing to pay IR£5m to facilitate a shopping centre development.

James Gogarty

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The former Garda and engineer was the man who is widely identified as having blown the whistle on the entire issue of corrupt planning. He responded to the initial public offer of a IR£10,000 reward for information leading to convictions in planning corruption by the former chairman of An Taisce Michael Smith and the barrister Colm Mac Eochaidh.

Appearing at the then Flood Tribunal, Gogarty gave perhaps the most crucial piece of evidence in saying that he had witnessed a bribe of IR£30,000 being paid to then Minister Ray Burke which he claimed was for the purpose of seeking Burke’s influence to rezone over 700 acres of land at several locations in north Dublin.

Gogarty’s criticism of his employers, whom he was in dispute with, several politicians and the planning process as a whole earned him widespread praise for his courage in exposing corruption in the planning process. He died in 2005.

Liam Lawlor

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The former Fianna Fáil TD was at the centre of allegations that he was provided with a loan of IR£350,000 from Larry Goodman to purchase land at Coolamber in west Dublin in return for half the profits upon developing the land. Goodman later said that he didn’t get any share of the profits and was instead left in debt to the tune of IR£157,000.

Lawlor admitted at the then Flood Tribunal that he had received sums of money from Frank Dunlop but claimed that they were political donations and not bribes in return for rezoning of land. His various failures to co-operate with the Tribunal led to him being jailed three times between January 2001 and February 2002 for contempt of court.

On 7 February 2002, he was discharged from Mountjoy Prison to make an appearance in the Dáil where he robustly defended his position amid cross-party calls for him to resign and a motion of censure before the house. He died in 2005 in a car crash in Moscow, Russia.

Ray MacSharry

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A former Tánaiste, Finance Minister and European Commissioner, he was the subject of allegations from Tom Gilmartin as well as property developer Owen O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan claimed that he gave STG£50,000 to MacSharry in Cork in 1988 but MacSharry denied this. He did however acknowledge that he secured a political donation of STG£80,000 for Fianna Fáil from O’Callaghan in 1994.

George Redmond

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The former assistant city and county manager at Dublin Corporation, the Tribunal heard from whistleblower Gogarty that Redmond had received payments from developer Joseph Murphy in the 1980s in relation to a development in Swords.

The Tribunal found that Redmond was in receipt of a number of corrupt payments in relation to planning decisions and found that he had hindered and obstructed the tribunal in an interim report in 2004. Redmond, now 88, later challenged this in court.

Perhaps most famously Redmond was arrested at Dublin Airport in March 1999 by the Criminal Assets Bureau and was found to be carrying £300,000 in cash and drafts. He was convicted for corruption in 2003 but this was later overturned on appeal.

Owen O’Callaghan

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The developer is at the centre of allegations that he paid money to Bertie Ahern. He and the former Taoiseach both deny this. The allegation stems from evidence by former footballer and journalist Eamon Dunphy who told the Mahon Tribunal that he had been told by O’Callaghan that Ahern was given money in return for support of a shopping centre development in the 90s. O’Callaghan also made a donation to Fianna Fáil in the 90s having been sought out by Mac Sharry to help reduce the party’s debt.

Jim Kennedy

The businessman owned land at Carrickmines in south county Dublin through his directorship of Jackson Way. According to a chapter on this rezoning published on 31 July 2013, Dunlop made corrupt payments on Kennedy’s behalf to  number of councillors in order for the land to be rezoned in 1997. Kennedy was judged by Mahon to have handed €25,000 to Dunlop for the purposes of buying councillors’ votes.

Kennedy is also currently the subject of civil proceedings taken by the Criminal Assets Bureau three years ago, alleging that Jackson Way had been unjustly enriched by the rezoning of the Carrickmines land. The case was put on hold pending the outcome of the recent trial of Kennedy and the former councillors, which collapsed last week, and is now set to resume in the coming weeks. He denies the allegations.

Read more from the new Mahon chapter: Frank Dunlop bribed councillors for rezoning of M50 lands

Note: TheJournal.ie first published this article on 12 March 2012, updated 22 March but now that the final chapter has been published, we decided you might need a chance to recap the who’s who of the 15-year-long proceedings.

(All pictures: Photocall Ireland and RTÉ)

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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