The Mahon Tribunal, perhaps to avoid discrediting chief witness Frank Dunlop, failed comprehensively to investigate the Cherrywood rezoning that led to its establishment. By Michael Smith
In 1995 Colm MacEochaidh and I sponsored a £10,000 reward for “information leading to the conviction of persons for rezoning corruption” after I had been involved in a long campaign against the suspicious rezoning of Cherrywood, beside Dublin’s Bray Road some years earlier. Allegations we received through our Newry solicitor, Kevin Neary, brought James Gogarty into the public eye and indirectly led to the establishment of the Flood/Mahon Tribunal, the jailing of Ray Burke and the resignation of Bertie Ahern. With the scandalously-delayed tribunal report again deferred – but this time only until the autumn – this is the evidence I gave to the Tribunal (available on its website).
For me one of the main distinguishing attractions of growing up in built-up Loughlinstown in the 1970s was its access to the idyllic Shanganagh Valley. This was an arcadian landscape, celebrated since the Norman invasion, bordered on one side by the Bray dual-carriageway and an ancient wall and then unbounded all the way to Stepaside and Kilternan, miles to the West. Thousands of acres of greenery. At Cherrywood dramatic hills ran down to the Shanganagh River, there was a stray orchard and a country lane; mysterious minor archaeological artefacts were present in inexplicable abundance; these and a wood of oak and beech gave the place an air of transcendence and permanence. This is how it was obliterated.
On 30 June 1989 the banner headline across the front of The Irish Times Property supplement stated that Monarch Properties, best known for developing the Square in Tallaght, had bought 234 acres which they intended to rezone and develop with 900 houses, opening up the yawning interior of the Valley also to the JCB panoply. Though I had long moved out of the area and was unlikely to return to that part of Dublin, I was concerned; and I wrote letters to Dublin county councillors suggesting they zone the area amenity, perhaps with the aid of some sort of land swap.
By 1990 the Council management wanted to rezone much of what they now called the “Carrickmines” Valley for a population of 30,000 people along what The Irish Times described as a Los Angeles-style grid-system. Residential development of 1,000 acres with two district centres (Cherrywood and Ballyogan), industrial development around a motorway and a brand new sewer were the main components of this proposal from management as recommended at a meeting of Dublin County Council on 18th Oct 1990. A heavyweight representative organisation styling itself the Carrickmines Valley Preservation Association (CVPA) was established to lobby against wholesale rezonings. They said the Carrickmines Valley was the Southside’s Phoenix Park. They took a hard-hitting approach, focusing on councillors and making them account for their actions. They held terrifying monster meetings. Councillors were probably scared to appear pro-rezoning. Between 1990 and 1993 the CVPA distributed several high-quality and effective leaflets to the tens of thousands of people in the area they said they represented.
On 6th December 1990 Councillors Ed McDonald, Jim Murphy and Betty Coffey successfully proposed a motion that the Los Angeles-style development be limited to one (the eastern) side of the proposed line of the South Eastern Motorway, that the proposed industrial zoning be reduced and that the residential zoning and open spaces be indicated.
The management produced obfuscating maps providing confusingly for the 6th December motion “except for updating to take account of the developments to date and adjustments of objective drawing number DP90A/129A refers”. In fact this provided for most of the Monarch lands to be zoned at four houses to the acre. A motion proposing this passed 21: 19. It went on public display and the local elections intervened. It would be for the new County Council, following a big public debate, to see if it wished to proceed with this sort of zoning.
The CVPA were very influential in getting these resolutions passed. In 1991 so far as I was concerned development had been stopped. Newspapers and the CVPA said there had been no significant zoning change.
So, relieved but concerned about the future, I decided I’d put out a leaflet before the 1991 local election in the name of the Campaign for Honesty in Politics drawing attention to the record of councillors in the outgoing council on a sample of specific issues. Its principal point was that there was a device whereby councillors outside an area voted for rezonings while their local colleagues cynically voted against. It noted that this practice was favoured by the big parties. It was hard-hitting and we distributed 7,000 copies of it in the Ballybrack/Loughlinstown/Cabinteely/Foxrock areas (see page 65).
Some time in October 1991, I realised with consternation that in fact the Monarch lands had been rezoned. In late 1991 I set up a group which we called the Shanganagh Protection Committee. It was intended to sound like SPUC, a topically passionate protest group of the time. We were a bunch of about ten in our mid-twenties – precarious student-types. We included two members who subsequently became active in national politics in the Green party Éamon Ryan and Déirdre de Burca. Now Monarch, aware of the accumulating opposition, went on the offensive.
Monarch employed soccer anchor and all-round cuddleball, Bill O’Herlihy who had a Fine Gael background and the ear of many councillors. His public relations company published a lot of cynical propaganda and organised a series of roadshows, mostly in schools, on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday for eleven weeks, in which they touted their scheme for Cherrywood. These were staffed by droves of Monarch personnel who we got to know quite well. They had a large-scale model of the scheme. Members of the Shanganagh Protection Committee would stand outside – often because the school or institution would have been paid to keep us out, counter-propagandising. At these roadshows Monarch Properties claimed 80% support but the intrepid Sunday Business Post showed that only 40% of attendees had filled out the form. We dismissed the proposal as “Happy Valley” and Tír na n-óg”, with its full-grown trees and absence of cars. The model only included one third of the actually-proposed number of houses and showed an adjoining golf course through which it was actually technically proposed to run the motorway. Frank McDonald in The Irish Times likened it to a health spa. We predicted accurately that it would not be built (they were not even proposing the detailed “area action plan” that might – perhaps – have guaranteed some of it) but that, once a rezoning was secured, the lands would simply be sold to the highest bidder, to do with what they liked.
In general we were horrified by the moneyed mendacity of the roadshows though people are not stupid and we preserved our good humour.
Phil Monahan on Seán Barrett
One of the most interesting incidents in the campaign was one rainy day outside St Laurence’s College during one of the roadshows there before the 1992 vote. The College had not allowed us on the grounds. Phil Monahan, Monarch’s charismatic white-haired boss, drove out at the end of the roadshow in his vast Mercedes. When he came to us at the gates he rolled down his window, and I shouted some mischievous abuse at him about his backfiring campaign, his company going bankrupt and him ending up in jail. This riled him and he said, in a bristling and macho way, that it would go through, though perhaps only at the final stage. He said he was paying councillors in particular Sean Barrett – a man with an irreproachable career who in 2011 was elected to the high office of Ceann Comhairle. While voting against the scheme himself, Monahan said Barrett would ensure that his Fine Gael colleagues from outside the area would vote in favour of it. He said he was close to Seán Barrett who, as an insurance broker, insured his racehorses. I discussed this strange incident widely and fed the story to The Phoenix magazine, which printed, I think, only the bit about the racehorces. Interestingly, though he did not rebut this at the time, Seán Barrett later made it clear to the Tribunal that he had no involvement with Monahan’s horses.
I could not tell the spirit in which Phil Monahan conducted this conversation and have only ever pointed to the fact he made the assertion not to its truth. It may well have been made to damage someone he in fact considered his most influential opponent, Seán Barrett. I never reflected any suspicion in literature we published and I was present when Barrett spoke in favour of retaining the 1983 zoning on the site in 1993. He spoke passionately and effectively. We acknowledged this in one of our leaflets. He never behaved suspiciously, though understandably perhaps he was not keen to talk to us. I only spoke once to him and it is unfortunate that he has had a shadow over him for fifteen years. I had hoped the Tribunal would investigate Monahan’s allegation by questioning Barrett’s Fine Gael colleagues on the council to ascertain what representations, if any, were made by Mr Barrett to them concerning the lands at Cherrywood. Disappointingly and contrary to best legal practice, despite my best efforts, they did not.
The O’Herlihy campaign
Bill O’Herlihy spearheaded an eight-page newspaper called Valley News which was distributed to tens of thousands of people locally It claimed the scheme would beautify the area which was actually quite beautiful enough. It pretended Monarch were committed to the Happy Valley scheme. It made untrue claims about levels of local support.
The Irish Independent described Monarch’s approach as an “election-style drive”. They had their roadshows, their ten-minute video, their dinners, expensively produced newspapers, television ads, radio ads, ads in local newspapers and leaflets and of course, it later emerged, their payments to councillors. They also offered community groups facilities on the lands. Monarch disbursed their £800,000 most strategically. In response we had flying columns with lots of youthful zeal and next to no money. We published many leaflets, talked to the press, knocked on doors, stood outside churches, hung banners and put leaflets on cars and through doors. On one occasion I remember we plastered literature all around the Monarch Properties’ headquarters on Harcourt Street to embarrass them. The campaign got nasty. A leaflet was produced by the obscure Unemployment Action Group featuring a big picture of an unemployed local man and blaming a privileged elite for denying him a job.
An article in The Sunday Business Post featured interviews with the principal opponents of the development and covered us quite favourably. There was a big photograph of us on a hillside on the Cherrywood lands. Three days later Monarch purloined the picture of us and put it on the cover of a leaflet topped by The Sunday Business Post masthead that they distributed from Bray to Dundrum. It was captioned “Trespassing?” (see page 65). Its sub-line was “Parkland that will be open to all and not just a privileged few”! Monarch finished up having to apologise to The Sunday Business Post for using their masthead and photo. Director Eddie Sweeney was quoted in the newspaper saying somewhat ridiculously that they had used it “subconsciously” and would “withdraw” it.
The Dublin Tribune had an editorial in March 1992 captioned “Every ‘free lunch’ has its Price” after nearly all the Councillors accepted a free “slap-up buffet dinner”, including vegetarian food for some of the Greens, from Monarch while they viewed their video and model in a break from a Council meeting.
Nearly every residents’ association in the area opposed rezoning. Most of them did it at rates of 80-90%. Cherrywood was a big issue at the time, all over the local newspapers, often in the national newspapers. Councillors were getting telephone calls at every hour of the day and night, partly prompted by our campaign. Every councillor knew all the issues because they were being asked about it all the time. I was told that some councillors received up to 2000 letters on the issue. For a long time no councillor spoke out saying they were in favour of the development. Every time any councillor raised an eyebrow about Cherrywood it would appear in the local newspapers. The local newspapers made a big deal of it in their headlines when finally New Agenda (the incipient Democratic Left), through Éamon Gilmore, announced they would vote for a (jobs-producing) component of the proposal. Then it came to the vote.
The 1992 vote
On 13th May 1992 a motion from councillors Don Lydon and Tom Hand proposing the Happy Valley zoning (without of course the guarantee of an action plan) i.e. 956 houses, 80,000 sq ft of Shopping Centre (down from 120,000) plus a hotel as part of a District Centre zoning and parks was presented but not voted on. On 27th May the manager proposed a Happiness-free four houses to the acre on septic tank and a neighbourhood centre. This was proposed as a motion by councillors Lydon and McGrath. It was voted down 35:33. FF voted 19:3 in favour; FG voted 7: 7; Labour 10: 1 against; DL voted 6: 0 against; the PDs 5:2 in favour and the Greens 4: 0 against. Councillors Lydon and Hand withdrew their motion in turmoil, presumably assuming it would be lost. Other motions failed too until a motion by Éamon Gilmore and Denis O’Callaghan for a District Centre passed 34:22. Finally a motion proposed by Sean Barrett and seconded by William Dockrell proposing a reversion to one-house to the acre for the residential lands (Monarch and substantial others totalling 178 acres) was successful 36:24. The residential land had essentially reverted to one house to the acre.
Mr O’Herlihy’s propaganda bonanza had backfired and the Council had actually down-zoned the land.
Monarch replaced Bill O’Herlihy with Frank Dunlop and everything changed. The District Centre and one-house-per acre went on display for public comments in July 1993.
We and the CVPA published several leaflets trying to mobilise residents and engage Councillors and encouraged residents to write to their Councillors (see page 65). But they had become complacent.
The 1993 vote
At a meeting of the Council on 11th November 1993 a series of motions was put. Labour drafted a motion suggesting the one-house-per acre residential zoning be confirmed. Seán Barrett and John Dockrell of Fine Gael put a motion amending this to provide that by June 1994 there should be a draft variation of the development plan. Then the Labour motion itself was defeated 44:26. Then a motion was proposed by Dónal Marren and seconded by Betty Coffey proposing the manager’s recommendation for the Monarch lands. leaving the residential land again at four to the acre. However, the lands adjoining Monarch that had gone back to one-to the-acre remained – apparently anomalously – at one to the acre, despite the manager’s contrary recommendation. The motion passed 44: 27.
Then Dónal Marren and Larry Lohan proposed a motion affirming the District Centre.
At a meeting on 10th December 1993 the Development Plan 1993 which included the Carrickmines Valley and Cherrywood was adopted.
We put out many leaflets between 1991 and 1993, particularly before and after votes. They were our principal weapon in our war for accountability. Six of them deal with voting records of councillors. They were designed to put pressure on councillors to take the stance of people in the area. Most of them included councillors’ phone numbers and What To Do sections.
The most extraordinary thing about Cherrywood is that it did indeed go through at the final hurdle after several Fine Gael and other Councillors changed their minds, as Phil Monahan said it would. At first, Monarch’s million-euro propaganda beano met our guerrilla campaign and they lost. The land reverted to an ‘unviable’ one-house-per acre. Then a year later after Frank Dunlop reconfigured the strategy with councillors, at the final-hour review which is just supposed to be a tweaking, they put it back up to four. And strangely only the Monarch lands were rezoned. It was suspicious. If you were to graph the zoning on the Cherrywood lands (roughly a capital N) and correlate that to what was happening on the ground politically you would be shocked. The principal change after Frank Dunlop was brought in is that a number of local Councillors inexplicably changed their minds. This led us at the time to publish a leaflet (see page 65). It noted that the same resolution which had been voted down in 1992 had been voted through in 1993. Councillors denied, especially to internal party investigations that were convened some years later, that they were voting on precisely the same resolution as the previous years, but they were. At the time, in the circumstances and knowing the background and personalities as we did, each change appeared an extraordinary and suspicious volte face. Some of them have become more suspicious over the years as it has emerged that some, though of course not all, of the councillors who changed their minds were paid money during the year by Monarch or Frank Dunlop. Of course, this is not to say that any or all of the Councillors were corrupt. Still, our 1993 leaflet said: “These Councillors changed their minds since 1992. NEVER TRUST THEM AGAIN. Call rezoners to account. Give them a call about it. And it named Councillors and gave their telephone numbers. Two PD, two FG, two FF. Larry Lohan, Helen Keogh, Liam Cosgrave, Olivia Mitchell, Betty Coffey, Richard Conroy”. Of course, there is no reason to believe, and I do not believe, these actions were corrupt.
Fine Gael (FG)
As regards Phil Monahan’s allegation about FG what emerges gave me little confidence at least regarding councillors who changed their minds. I note that in 2000 Seán Barrett, who, of course, did not change his mind, admitted to his FG internal Inquiry that he received a cheque for about £600 from Monarch Properties or their agent at the time of the 1991 local elections and gave it to the local constituency organisation and an unsolicited cheque for between £500 and £1, 000 from Frank Dunlop at the time of the General Election in 1992. Liam T Cosgrave, who was recently charged with corruption relating to the zoning of the Jackson Way site which adjoins Cherrywood, admitted to his internal FG Inquiry that he received £2,000 in cash from Frank Dunlop in 1992/1993, £500-£1,000 in 1997 and £500 in 1999. He also believes that he received £500 or £1,000 in 1997 and £500 in 1999 from Monarch Properties. The FG Inquiry found that in the absence of a detailed account of the circumstances in which these payments were made (particularly the £2,000 paid by Frank Dunlop in cash in 1992/1993), it could not come to a definitive conclusion in relation to the payments made to him”.
I particularly remember councillor Olivia Mitchell’s role in the rezoning. She had voted against the change to the development plan in 1992. Before the start of the final meeting in 1993 I had a row with councillor Mitchell who claimed we were engineering a great many telephone calls to her. Immediately after the vote, in the Council office, I caught her hugging one of the developers. I said “oh, Kissy, Kissy with one of the developers” and she said “Lucky you don’t have a camera”. It seemed to me she should not have been voting on an issue where she was close enough to a vested interest to hug him in reaction to the way the vote on his vested interest had turned out. Olivia Mitchell admitted to the FG Inquiry that £500 in cash was contributed by Mr Frank Dunlop to her election expenses in 1992. In 1997 Ms Mitchell was elected to Dáil Eireann following payments of £1,000 from Dunloe/Ewart who merged with Monarch and £250 from Frank Dunlop. She also stated that the only occasions upon which her vote coincided with the interests of one of her financial supporters were the Quarryvale rezoning votes. In fact clearly her 1993 Cherrywood vote coincided with the interests of one of her financial supporters. I was perplexed by the sureness and assertiveness of the FG Inquiry’s finding that the payment of £500 to her by Mr Frank Dunlop had no bearing whatsoever on Ms Mitchell’s vote, though, of course, I do not say they were wrong. Still, in general, I felt the Inquiry was probably looking to Quarryvale not Cherrywood,.
Overall, I was appalled that nine out of the twelve FG Councillors who would talk to their internal Inquiry had received money from Monarch or Frank Dunlop (or both) in the 1991-1993 period when I was concerned with the Cherrywood vote. The councillors are Seán Barrett, Liam Cosgrave, Michael Joe Cosgrave, Anne Devitt, Olivia Mitchell, Nora Owen, Therese Ridge, Sheila Terry (formerly Progressive Democrats) and William Dockrell. I thought the FG Inquiry had the appearance of a whitewash at least over Cherrywood. Some other FG Councillors clearly received money also in addition to the nine who dealt with the Inquiry. And in November 1992 the party leader, John Bruton, received £2500 from Monarch. Of course, there is no reason to believe, and I do not believe, these actions were corrupt. According to our leaflets of the time FG voted 7:7 on the residential up-zoning in 1992. By 1993 their vote was 12:5 in favour.
Progressive Democrats (PD)
At the 1992 General Election the PDs published literature saying they would not vote for rezonings at Cherrywood. In May 1992 local Councillors Lohan and Keogh actually proposed a resolution for retention of the one-house-per-acre but on septic tank. We knew that retaining their opposition was crucial and specifically targeted them. Nevertheless they ultimately voted 5:2 in favour of rezoning in 1992 on the Lydon/McGrath motion (with Councillors Keogh and Lohan voting against). But the PDs voted en masse for the same rezoning in 1993. According to the Tribunal Helen Keogh and Larry Lohan received money from Monarch and/or Frank Dunlop before the 1993 vote. They both suspiciously changed their minds in 1993. This was a devastating turnaround for the opponents of the rezoning. I noted also that Mary Harney received a £1000 donation from Monarch before the 1992 General Election, though of course I have no evidence any of this changed the PDs’ collective mind. And, there is no reason to believe, and I do not believe, these actions were corrupt.
Fianna Fáil (FF)
A flavour of the possible then modus operandi of FF is the following. In 1991 after the local election but before Cherrywood became a big issue on the ground and before Bill O’Herlihy began his campaign, I attended a meeting about the Carrickmines Valley. At the end of the meeting on its periphery I encountered Betty Coffey who was a leading councillor for Fianna Fáil. I had a pleasant chat with her about Cherrywood and then she said I should talk to Fianna Fail’s planning expert. She beckoned to the shadows. Liam Lawlor emerged and said he was not in favour of rezoning the valley and had voted against the wholesale rezoning of the valley. The strange thing was that he was not on the Council at the time, having lost his seat in the local election and that he had no obvious reason to be there. He seemed nevertheless to be fulfilling some sort of a lead role politically. Frank Dunlop later named him as “Mr Big”.
As to FF generally, a report in the Irish Times of July 13 1993 notes that of 245 FF votes cast on 20 contentious rezonings around that time (excluding Cherrywood) only seven were against rezonings. 19 of the FF councillors simply never voted against the rezoning proposals. We did well to get any FF votes against the rezoning of Cherrywood.
I note that Don Lydon, also recently charged with corruption relating to the zoning of the Jackson Way site, received £2500 from Monarch in 1992 but failed to disclose it to the FF Inquiry. Betty Coffey seemed to play an important role in FF’s deliberative process – for example it was she who organised a presentation from us to the FF contingent on the Council, in Conway’s pub. The presentation did not go well. Councillor Coffey berated us on Morning Ireland after the 1992 vote for being too young and for organizing telephonic harassment of Councillors. She was sent flowers by Lynn after her vote. Betty Coffey received £1300 from Monarch and £1000 from Mr Frank Dunlop in 1992 (Frank Dunlop says he gave it in 1991) and solicited sponsorship for a FF St Patrick’s Day lunch (£1000), for the Dun Laoghaire Enterprise Board (£1000) and a Chamber of Commerce (of which her husband was President) awards ceremony (£700) but failed to disclose any of these to the FF Inquiry or the Carrickmines I module. Tony Fox, now charged too with corruption relating to the zoning of the Jackson Way site, also underestimated the amount he received from Monarch Properties. On the other hand, Richard Conroy in fact received no payments from Monarch or Dunlop. In 2001 it was revealed in the Moriarty Tribunal that Phil Monahan and his wife had paid £25,000 to FF. And FF leader Albert Reynolds received £5,000 in 1992 with an accompanying letter referring to the Cherrywood issue.
FF’s vote changed little between 1992 and 1993 on the residential rezoning. According to our leaflets it changed on the residential rezoning from 19:3 in 1992 to 21: 2 in 1993. Of all the major parties only Green and Labour performed well in the Cherrywood saga.
It will be interesting to see the Tribunal’s conclusions on Cherrywood. My fear is that, perhaps keen not to further discredit its unreliable chief informant Frank Dunlop, too much tribunal effort has gone into Quarryvale and Jackson Way (whose rezoning was always contingent on Cherrywood first being rezoned) and little diligence into investigating Cherrywood.
The rezoning ultimately appears to have been tainted by corruption or efforts at corruption. Local residents went through all the democratic process, some opponents wasted the guts of a year of their lives on a campaign and through sheer force of money they lost – to forces they they could not have hoped to defeat. Bad planning creates losers – in this case the residents of Loughlinstown who now have lost an accessible beauty spot, and a city whose houses meet the needs of developers not residents. I would like to see the beneficiaries, (some now NAMA-bound), of corrupt rezonings in the Carrickmines Valley give back to the people the hundreds of millions of Euro in windfall profits run up as a result, directly or indirectly in some cases, of corruption.
1994: Minister fails to intervene
After the rezoning went through in 1993 we went through all the legal hoops, writing to the Minister for the Environment, seeking his intervention to kick the “debased currency” of rezonings to the newly-divided County Council where votes would be decided by Councillors who might know the land about which they were voting. For the guts of a year – 1994 – we hoped he would intervene. By the end of that year I was inflamed at the failure of anyone to do anything. Media interest in planning corruption had died with a series of articles by Frank McDonald and Mark Brennock in the Irish Times in 1995 which failed to nail any Councillors except the deceased Seán Walsh.
1995: A reward
I was frustrated that Cherrywood had been rezoned in suspicious circumstances and was determined not to let the issue rest. I had the idea of offering a reward for information leading to the conviction of corrupt re-zoners. A friend of mine, Colm MacEochaidh, co-promoted the initiative. We agreed to split the costs of the venture and and I initially put up the £10,000 (which eventually went on legal costs). We both wished to retain anonymity for what was a wildcard, high-risk idea. We could not get any Dublin solicitor to channel the initiative. Then Colm had the idea of talking to a solicitor outside the jurisdiction. His friend Kevin Neary agreed to front it. Ultimately fifty-five allegations of which five or ten were important (some were about such matters as the burial place of Shergar) emerged. James Gogarty came forward. We leaked his and some other stories to journalists and they investigated it by availing of access that we provided to Mr Gogarty. We issued a number of press releases through Mr Neary indicating the nature of information we were obtaining and trying to sustain media interest. Unfairly, the media confounded the story about Seán Barrett and implied that evidence had been given about him when none had been: That must have been very difficult for him. For us, the main idea was to secure immunity from prosecution for witnesses and perhaps to bring about a tribunal, though we made very clear that we did not want an extravagant circus – such as what ultimately evolved.
Initially I felt my role, insofar as I had one, should be confined to ensuring these allegations were treated properly – which ultimately meant being forwarded to the Garda and ultimately to the tribunal. In the end – once our role of intermediaries was done – I felt it was appropriate to forward my own suspicions to the tribunal – because of new information. Mr Monahan’s strange story including his prediction of the voting pattern were not enough. Nor when his prediction came true as FG came out in force – but only at the last hurdle – to vote for the Monarch proposal, nor even when it emerged that the prime strategist for the rezoning was Frank Dunlop, a self-confessed briber who was subsequently jailed. But when it emerged that more than half of Fine Gael Councillors including the unimpeachable Mr Barrett had taken money from Monarch or Mr Dunlop in the crucial period when, as a result of our reward, it emerged that other Councillors were taking “corrupt payments”, when Monarch accepted that there were influential “lead” Councillors who could drive a rezoning, then and only then, with suspicions heightened, did I go public – rightly or wrongly, 15 years after my first exposure to the first ambiguous allegation of corruption.
I asked that the Tribunal investigate what Seán Barrett said to each of the Councillors who mysteriously changed their mind about the rezoning. The tribunal failed to do this.
My allegations about the late Mr Phil Monahan were never put to Mr Monahan.
I gave evidence also expressing concern as to why two PD Councillors, who also received money from Monarch Properties and/or Mr Dunlop changed their votes between 1992 and 1993; and drawing attention to a possible failure by the Tribunal to realise that these Councillors had sponsored a motion retaining the status quo in 1992. I felt that my statement on these matters should have been put to the relevant Councillors.
In circumstances where my allegations were not dealt with fully by the tribunal, Seán Barrett, in particular – unsurprisingly – questioned my evidence and indeed my bona fides. Distorted misreportings of my evidence appeared in the press. I considered that Seán Barrett should have given evidence after me to allow him a reply and my legal team to cross examine him on the contents of my statement. I believe this would have been fair to both parties by allowing the matter to be fully dealt with in the appropriate forum, the tribunal. My evidence was at all stages predicated on the tribunal putting the relevant evidence to the parties about whom it was given. It is possible the failure to do so was in order to avoid exposing the erratic nature of the evidence of star witness, Frank Dunlop.
The relevant parts of my statement were never put to Seán Barrett, his five party colleagues and the two PD Councillors with appropriate opportunities for cross-examination. That was unfair to them, to me and to the truth. While I feel that my initiative in promoting the £10,000 reward was fruitful, as to giving evidence about the suspicions that inspired the reward, I wish I had never bothered.
I eagerly await the Tribunal’s final report, but its section on Cherrywood, which drove the Tribunal’s instigation, with trepidation.