Warning - slippery when wet
George Redmond at the Flood Tribunal
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
The difficulty faced by the Tribunal format for uncovering political corruption in Irish politics was very apparent this week when former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond was in the witness box.
Redmond has wriggled back and forth during his testimony at the Tribunal over the last eight days. He couldn't remember who he met, what they said, who gave him money and how much money. When he could remember, it was in small snippets of information, with vital elements of testimony forgotten.
Redmond has already been found to have over 35 bank accounts, with deposits running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many of the accounts were opened in the Isle of Man and other offshore locations. He was arrested last year after a visit to the Isle of Man saw him returning to Ireland with nearly £300,000 in his luggage. The Revenue Commissioners are taking a case against Redmond for unpaid tax. This, however, is small fish compared to the revelations in the Flood Tribunal last week.
Redmond had by 1997 amassed wealth far in excess of his total income. By the beginning of the 1980s, he had deposits of over £500,000, even though his actual income for the 1970s was a fraction of that.
The proceedings at the Flood Tribunal this week are focusing on just one year in the life of George Redmond - 1988. The reason being that for Redmond's 40-year working career in Dublin Corporation, the only record of his activities is one diary found found by the Criminal Assets Bureau when they searched his house last year.
Even though it only gives a hint of one year in the 40, it has provided remarkable insights into his activities. But his prevarication when being questioned on the information in his diary led to a warning from Justice Flood. Flood threatened Redmond with having to pay his own legal costs and those of the whole tribunal for the days he was in the witness box if he did not cooperate.
The diary lists contacts with two developers who Redmond admits gave him money. Last week, Redmond told the Tribunal that he received between £8,000 and £10,000 from two building developers. This week, the figure rose to £20,000 from each developer.
Other elements of the Redmond testimony showed a very busy man who was paid handsomely for his advice. One developer wanted to get land for a road in the Castleknock area and Redmond was paid for his advice. Another paid him £5,000 when Redmond oversaw the sale of council land for a bargain price of £10,000.
Redmond also had problems remembering why so many politicians dropped by his office. All he could remember before the threat of costs was conversations on tennis and golf.
Last week, Redmond had told the Tribunal about his relationship with another building developer, Matt Gallagher whom Redmond said was a ``wonderful man''. ``He wanted to do so much good. He just wanted to build houses... low-cost houses, good houses. I idolised the man.'' George Redmond received between £10,000 and £15,000 per annum from companies associated with Gallagher.
Redmond also gave details on two Christmas gifts of £10,000 and £5,000 from a developer and a landowner. The gifts were made ``in the spirit of the season''.
Deceased hotel owner P V Doyle gave Redmond and another person, Paddy Treacy, a ``couple of hundred pounds'' to spend at the greyhounds in Shelbourne Park.
other developer, Tom Brennan, paid Redmond around £15,000 a year for 20 years. Redmond usually travelled once a week to Brennan's home and horse stud and received £400 a visit. ``It was never taken as read... whenever he had it, I would take it. That is my crime.''
Redmond's evidence is set to continue, but to what avail? His selective memory is hampering the tribunal and costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It is clear that he took money systematically for decades from people that his professional work decisions would significantly enrich. Surely the questioning of Redmond would be more productive in the central criminal court or some other court rather than the relaxed atmosphere of a Tribunal.
Every day, individuals with such selective memories are cited for contempt in courts all around Ireland. Why is there such a special case being made in Dublin Castle for people who have clearly been involved in malpractice and corruption in their professional lives?
This week, the Leinster House parties have been angsting over the issue of political funding and trying to find a way to gloss over their recent past of corrupt payments for political favours. Will they find the time now to take a step further and act to ensure that proper legal proceedings are taken against those involved in the corruption uncovered by the Flood and Moriarty?