Flood gates open
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Were you a councillor in any one of the 26 Counties' 29 local authorities over the last 20 years? Were you ever asked to sell your vote for planning and rezoning motions? Did you ever take money on this basis?
These are just three simple questions that the Irish public want answered this week in the aftermath of another round of explosive allegations from political lobbyist Frank Dunlop on his slush fund for financing rezoning applications in Dublin County Council. Dunlop told the Flood Tribunal of payments to 30 politicians on behalf of 14 landowners.
It was a very diferent Frank Dunlop who came to Dublin Castle this week than the buoyant man who appeared before Easter. He is clearly ill, has lost weight and looks gaunt. This did not stop him from detailing allegations that put his previous declarations of paying over £100,000 to 16 councillors in order to rezone land for the Liffey Valley into the shade.
This time, Dunlop unveiled a sytematic abuse of the planning laws where he acted as a middle man for property developers who wanted land rezoned.
Dunlop told how he managed a ``stash of cash'', a ``war chest'' to make payments to politicians. There was land rezoned in Dún Laoghaire and in South and North Dublin, all paid for by Dunlop. Councillors were paid either to vote or to abstain. We were told of the payments to one ``fairly insatiable councillor'' as well as to a ``relatively important figure'' on Dublin council and of one individual who is still receiving payments, according to Dunlop.
Once again, the payments were made in the council chambers, car parks, public houses and even in one case outside a church prior to a funeral. Dunlop has still more evidence to give regarding payments made by him.
Even though the 78 councillors have still to give evidence to the Tribunal, there is nothing stopping them declaring now in public whether or not they received money from Dunlop. Already Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor has admitted that he received money from Dunlop, though he denies being the person who is still receiving payments.
There is also a pressing need for the Revenue Commissioners and the Criminal Assets Bureau to be working alongside the Flood Tribunal. This has already been shown to be possible in the case of George Redmond, the former assistant county manager who is being investigated by the Revenue Commissioners.
The other unresolved issue is how many other Frank Dunlops were there and how many other councils are there where the car parks and council chambers were awash with cash?