In his lengthy critique of the planning tribunal and its first sole member, Justice Feargus Flood, in the April edition of Village, Anthony Harris manages to avoid any mention of why his former client and Dublin assistant city and county manager, the late George Redmond, was the subject of corruption findings by the inquiry.
He correctly recounts why most of these findings were withdrawn from the second and third reports of the tribunal following High Court and Supreme Court decisions although the final report, which includes adverse findings against Redmond, remains in place.
The withdrawal of corruption, and other, findings against Redmond, Ray Burke, Joseph Murphy junior, Michael Bailey and others was prompted by a judgment of the Supreme Court in 2010 arising from the successful case taken by Joseph Murphy Structural Engineers against the Flood tribunal. In that case, it was determined that Justice Flood was not empowered to find parties guilty of the crime of hindering and obstructing him. Any such findings were removed.
Harris quotes the Supreme Court judgment in the JMSE case as supporting his view that Justice Flood had “concealed without justification” evidence which was “patently relevant” to his inquiries and, “on one tenable view, explosive”.
This is a reference to a decision made by Justice Flood to redact allegations made by key witness, James Gogarty, including statements he made in taped interviews with me in 1996 and 1997 before the tribunal was established. Harris recounts the Supreme Court judgment of the late Justice Adrian Hardiman in relation to the 1999 decision by Justice Flood to redact the Gogarty documents.
“He [the Tribunal’s counsel] then referred to the Tribunal’s “need to limit collateral credibility issues: they redacted the documents”, Hardiman said.
According to Harris, “‘the need to limit collateral credibility issues’ is counsel-speak for an admission that Justice Flood’s purpose was to conceal the fact that Gogarty was, at worst, a serial liar”.
He dismisses the claim by the tribunal that Flood and his team believed the redactions were justified as some of the allegations made by Gogarty were not relevant to its inquiries and were defamatory of individuals who were not the subject of its investigation.
In 2005, in a case brought by Cork developer, Owen O’Callaghan, against the tribunal, it was ruled that the tribunal’s modus operandi of withholding documents which could have been used by other parties to test the credibility of a key witness was unconstitutional and from then the tribunal changed its policy.
It is not my role to defend the decisions and actions of the tribunal in 1999 or since, or indeed the integrity of its first key witness, James Gogarty, but I can provide some detail on the circumstances which led to Flood’s decision to withhold some of the “explosive” material from circulation.
During a series of taped interviews, Gogarty made a wide range of allegations against his former employers, JMSE, Ray Burke, Michael Bailey, Redmond and others which were subsequently aired in his signed affidavit and at public hearings of the tribunal.
When the tribunal was established I was summoned to appear as a witness and to submit, in advance, any relevant material related to a series of articles I published on the Gogarty claims and other planning matters in the Sunday Business Post over the previous three years.
In reply and with the advice of lawyers acting for the newspaper, I submitted that the tapes and transcripts contained allegations which were potentially defamatory of a number of people, including two senior politicians and a senior judge, and suggested that it might use only contents which were directly relevant to the tribunal’s terms of reference. It was not in my power to limit what the tribunal decided or did with the material.
I put some of the claims to the individuals, including the politicians named on tape, and they were roundly denied.
For the record, I also put many of the claims made by Gogarty to Redmond, Burke, JMSE and Michael Bailey. They were also denied.
However, the tribunal came up with evidence that supported much of what Gogarty alleged in those interviews and in his later, colourful, public evidence. Redmond was found to have received multiples of his public salary in payments from builders and other business interests. He was sensationally arrested on his return from the Isle of Man in February 1998 carrying a suitcase with over £300,000 in cash.
The tribunal has been forced to withdraw many of its findings against a range of individuals, including Redmond although not those contained in the final report concerning his ‘double act’ dealings with Liam Lawlor. That does not mean that he is suddenly on the road to canonisation.
Perhaps Mr Harris can give more detail on where Redmond got these sums of money, and indeed what precisely his conceded role in concerted planning corruption, was.