The Mahon Report – A Plague On All Your Houses

The Mahon Tribunal has finally published its long-awaited report and like the lifting of the proverbial rock all sorts of nastiness has been uncovered lurking underneath. While the media focus will be on rump Fianna Fáil and An Taoiseach na Chófra, Bertie Ahern, don’t let this distract you from the other main conclusions of Mahon and co. It suits much of our still intact Post-Colonial Ascendancy, the members of the political establishment and their many willing helpers in the national media, to blur the truth by throwing up all sorts of drama to hide their own culpability in the “mafiaization” of the Irish state from the 1970s onward.

But look at the facts and figures, the long list of politicians investigated by the Tribunal in its search for the truth behind the repeated allegations of corrupt or suspect practices in local government in the 1980s and ’90s, specifically in the rezoning of land in Quarryvale, in west Dublin. In some ways the report is almost a who’s-who guide to notable people in Irish local and national politics at that time. Some of the names are startling. More so as it quickly becomes clear that this is not simply a tale of just one political party’s malfeasance but a tangled web of petty corruption that dragged in all the major political parties in Ireland – and in just one small region of the country.

One has to ask: if just one local authority in the media-cockpit that is Dublin was that bad, what was the rest of the country like? And what is it like now?

TheJournal.ie carries a list of local councillors named in the report, many of whom are well known figures, with details of their activities. It makes for sober reading:

SEAN ARDAGH (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that, Ardagh had been considered an “important and valued supporter of the Quarryvale project from 1992 onwards”, and had received relatively modest political contributions from Frank Dunlop and developer Owen O’Callaghan.

It also noted that Ardagh had been “less than frank with the Tribunal as to the extent of his contact” with Dunlop and O’Callaghan…

CLLR MICK BILLANE (DL)

The Tribunal reported that – as a matter of probability – Cllr Billane had at some point met with and was lobbied by Dunlop and/or O’Callaghan.

Following a meeting in October 1997, O’Callaghan provided a charitable donation of IR£10,000 to Citywise, a registered charity which provided services to city centre youth.  The Tribunal was satisfied that Billane had secured this contribution at the meeting, despite his testimony that he had no recollection of the meeting itself and only “vaguely” recalled his involvement in securing the charitable donation

CLLR CATHAL BLAND (FG)

Cllr Boland told the Tribunal that he had received a sum of IR£4,000 in cash from Dunlop by way of an election contribution from anonymous donors on 11 November 1992.

Boland said was not lobbied by Dunlop in relation to the Quarryvale project and had had no concerns about taking the money from him, even though he knew he was a lobbyist, because he had always found Dunlop to be upright and had considered him “a pillar of society.”

Boland said that he absented himself from the 17 December vote because he had been approached by another party asking him to vote against the plan and offered £500 for doing so. He said that did not accept the money, but still he felt he had been compromised by the incident…

CLLR PETER BRADY (FG)

On 30 March 1998, the Tribunal Counsel noted an interview with Alan Dukes TD, in which Dukes alleged that Cllr Peter Brady, had told him that Cllr Brian Fleming had been offered £100,000 if he (Fleming) could ‘deliver’ the Fine Gael vote to secure the rezoning of the Quarryvale lands”.

On the issue of the conflict between Cllr Brady and Alan Dukes, the Tribunal found in favour of Dukes evidence. As such, it concluded that at some point between 1995 and 1998, Brady did relay to Dukes that Fleming had been offered IR£100,000 to deliver the Fine Gael vote in support of Quarryvale.

LIAM T COSGRAVE (FG)

The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunlop gave IR£2,000 to Cllr Cosgrave around May or June 1991, and concluded that the payment was “in all probability” solicited by Cosgave in the course of being lobbied by Mr Dunlop in the period leading up to the Quarryvale rezoning vote.

The Tribunal said that it believed that at the time at which Cosgrave was solicited and accepted the election contribution, he was aware of Dunlop’s ongoing role in relation to Quarryvale – and described his conduct as “improper”.

The Tribunal accepted Dunlop’s account of having met Cosgrave at Newtownpark Avenue in Blackrock on 11 November 1992, and that on this date he had given cash donations of IR£2,000 (later returned) and IR£4,000 respectively to Cllrs Pat Rabbitte and Cathal Boland.

MICHAEL J COSGRAVE (FG)

Tribunal satisfied that M J Cosgrave solicited and received payment of IR£1,000 during the time of his January 1993 Seanad Election campaign…

The Tribunal described Cosgrave’s request for money and his acceptance of it “compromised his required disinterested performance of his duties as an elected representative, and was improper”.

LIAM CREAVEN (FF)

Creaven acknowledged having been lobbied by Dunlop, stating that he had been lobbied both for and against rezoning.

In response to the Tribunal’s inquiries as to whether or not he had received any payments in relation to Quarryvale, he said that he had received a “hamper” from the parties involved in the Quarryvale Shopping Centre.

JIM DALY (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that Cllr Daly was lobbied by Dunlop in relation to Quarryvale and that it was “probable” that Daly requested an election contribution, given the imminence of the local election. However, it noted that – whether or not Daly had solicited the contribution – he had accepted it in the knowledge that Dunlop was a lobbyist for Quarryvale.

PAT DUNNE (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunne solicited money from Dunlop for the 1991 local election campaign…

It accepted Dunlop’s evidence that he had given Dunne a sum of IR£15,000, and was satisfied that this payment was corrupt.

MARY ELLIOTT (FG)

Elliott said she had not attended any public meetings in connection with the re-zoning of Quarryvale other than Council meetings, but acknowledged that she had been “lobbied by local organisations”…

She said that she never received any payment or donations from parties involved in the project and, while admitting that she had dined in the company of Dunlop and O’Callaghan…

JIM FAHEY (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that Fahey solicited a payment of IR£2,000, and that such solicitation and acceptance of funds had been improper.

TONY FOX (FF)

Cllr Tony Fox was identified by Dunlop as a recipient of £2,000 in cash during the local election campaign.

CYRIL GALLAGHER (FF)

Despite Dunlop’s testimony that there had been no express link between a IR£1,000 payment to Cllr Cyril Gallagher and Quarryvale, the Tribunal was satisfied that Gallagher had been ware of Dunlop’s role as a lobbyist for the project.

SEAN GILBRIDE (FF)

The Tribunal said it was satisfied that the “primary purpose” of Cllr Sean Gilbride’s decision to take a leave of absence from his teacher’s post and place himself on O’Callaghan’s payroll was “to enable Gilbride devote himself on a near full time basis to promoting the Quarryvale project for Mr O’Callaghan”.

It described as “incredible” the suggestion that the political ambitions of an elected councillor could be properly served by that councillor placing himself on the payroll of a developer at a time when that same developer was promoting the rezoning of lands…

RICHARD GREENE (IND)

The Tribunal was satisfied that a cash donation of IR£500 received by Greene had been given to him by O’Callaghan via Dunlop, and the developer’s “generosity to Cllr Greene was not unconnected to his zoning ambitions for Quarryvale”.

TOM HAND (FG)

The Tribunal was satisfied that Dunlop paid Cllr Hand IR£20,000 in cash in two tranches of £10,000 each specifically in return for his support on Quarryvale, and that the payment was corrupt.

FINBARR HANRAHAN (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that, during the course of the 1992 general election, Dunlop in all probability paid Cllr Fibarr Hanrahan either IR£2,000 or IR£2,500, with the principal reason for the payment being to secure his support for Quarryvale. It concluded that such a payment was “improper”.

JACK LARKIN (FF)

The Tribunal concluded that a payment of IR£1,000 to Cllr Jim Larkin during a period around the 1991 Local Elections had been made. It was satisfied that a request for the money had probably been made by Larkin after he had been lobbied to support Quarryvale…

DONAL LYDON (FF)

The Tribunal rejected Cllr Donal Lydon’s evidence that he did not solicit a payment of IR£1,000 in or about May 1991, and concluded that such a payment had indeed been made between 16 May 1991 and 6 June 1991.

MARIAN MCGEENIS (FF)

The Tribunal noted Cllr Marian McGennis’ “significant role” in relation to the Quarryvale rezoning proposal over the course of 1991 to 1993, and also noted that – in her initial dealings with the Tribunal – she had not been forthcoming about the extent of her involvement with Dunlop and O’Callaghan.

The report was satisfied that McGeenis solicited a IR£1,400 cheque from Dunlop in July 1991, and that over a period of two months had been the recipient of a total of IR£6,500 from individuals closely associated with the Quarryvale issue.

COLM MCGRATH (FF)

The Tribunal was satisfied that McGrath solicited a payment of IR£10,000 that was “in all probability” requested on the basis of the assistance he was giving O’Callaghan.

It added that further payments of IR£10,700 and IR£20,000 could neither be described as political donations or “loans”, as had been suggested, and that such payments were corrupt.

OLIVIA MITCHELL (FG)

The Tribunal said it was satisfied that Cllr Mitchell received a sum of IR£500 in cash from Dunlop at the time of the 1992 General Election.

TOM MORRISSEY (FG)

The Tribunal confirmed that Cllr Tom Morrissey had remained “staunchly opposed” to the rezoning of Quarryvale as a town centre at all times.

The Tribunal was also satisfied that there had been no improper motivation from any party in relation to Morrissey’s firm producing diaries for Dunlop’s firm at a cost of IR£377.52…

ANN ORMONDE (FF)

According to the report, Cllr Ann Ormonde received in total at least IR£1,650 from Dunlop between the period January 1993 to 1998 – in the knowledge that he was a lobbyist in circumstances in which she herself was involved.

GUSS O’CONNELL (IND)

The report noted that the absence of Cllr Guss O’Connell’s from the County Council on 17 December 1992, the date on which votes on a motion relating to Quarryvale were cast, had been beneficial to O’Callaghan.

However, it was not satisfied that this situation had been “orchestrated”…

JOHN O’HALLORAN (LAB/IND)

The Tribunal’s report noted that Cllr John OHalloran “had not been, in general, frank with the Tribunal” in the manner in which he responded to requests for information in relation to payments made by Dunlop and O’Callaghan.

In 1993, O’Halloran received an IR£5,000 cheque from O’Callaghan/Riga – and the Tribunal pointed out that, just weeks later, he was one of five signatories to a letter to the Minister for Finance in which tax designation was sought for Quarryvale.

O’Halloran also received a payment of IR£250 in or around the time that he signed a motion on Quarryvale, and that he did on occasion receive small payments of IR£500 over the course of the making of the Development Plan 1991 – 1993.

The Tribunal was satisfied that O’Halloran solicited a payment of IR£2,500 in 1996 from Dunlop…

PAT RABBITTE (DL)

The Tribunal accepted Dunlop’s evidence that Cllr Pat Rabbitte had been listed as a recipient of IR£3,000 in cash in 1992, and that that sum had later been returned to him by means of a cheque.

THERESE RIDGE (FG)

The report described Cllr Therese Ridge as not merely a staunch supporter of the Quarryvale campaign but also a person who “actively engaged” in providing advice in relation to the strategy generally, and specifically in relation to motions relevant to Quarryvale”.

The report added that she was “handsomely rewarded”  for her efforts – both in the form of cash donations totalling IR£1,000 and by Dunlop taking care of printing and other costs associated with her election campaigns.

COLM TYNDALL (PD)

The Tribunal was satisfied Tyndal had been lobbied by O’Callghan in relation to the Quarryvale rezoning proposal – and that Tyndal (on behalf of his company Marine & General Insurance Ltd) had likewise lobbied O’Callaghan for his company to be appointed insurance broker to companies associated with O’Callaghan.

The report concluded that Tyndal had exploited his position as an elected councillor in circumstances which benefited a company with which he was closely associated…

Tyndal testified that he could not confirm whether he received a donation of IR£500 from O’Callaghan in 1999…

GV WRIGHT  (FF)

In relation to a payment of IR£10,000 by Dunlop and O’Callaghan to Cllr GV Wright in November 1992, the Tribunal said it was satisfied that the motivation for such a payment was to “ensure Wright’s ongoing support for the Quarryvale project.”

Reading through the report, the all too familiar names, businesses and organisations that crop up again and again and again, one is reminded of a variation of that old curse: a plague on all your houses.

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