50 councillors to give tribunal evidence

It was that long ago, but some might remember why the Planning Tribunal was established. The next module relates directly to why Michael Smith and Colm MacEochaidh offered a £10,000 reward for information on alleged planning corruption.

After Easter, the tribunal plans to start new hearings into the rezoning of Monarch Properties’ lands at Cherrywood for housing and industrial uses in the early 1990s. The change, which was fiercely contested by local residents, was regarded as the most controversial rezoning to go through Dublin County Council, after Quarryvale.

It was concern over this rezoning that prompted a local barrister, Michael Smith, and a colleague, Colm MacEochaidh, to offer a £10,000 reward for information on alleged planning corruption.

This initiative led indirectly to the setting up of the tribunal.

Monarch has told the tribunal it lobbied virtually every member of the council and made political donations to more than half its 78 members. The politicians are expected to say the contributions were for election expenses and did not influence their vote.

Former government press secretary Frank Dunlop, who was also employed by the company to lobby councillors, says he was paid £25,000 for his work. He alleges he paid £2,000 each to Fianna Fail councillors Tony Fox and Colm McGrath to support the rezoning motion; the two men deny this claim.

The new module is expected to reveal further examples of “amnesia” over political donations by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael politicians, only 11 of whom disclosed contributions from Monarch to their respective party inquiries in 2000.

Senator Don Lydon has already admitted to the tribunal he failed to disclose a £2,500 donation from Monarch in 1992.

The tribunal is also investigating Mr Monahan’s success in getting urban renewal status for The Square in Tallaght in the late 1980s. This decision, taken by former minister for the environment Padraig Flynn, turned the Dundalk-born former mechanic into a multi-millionaire. Mr Monahan died in 2003.