Is Dunlop protecting bigger fish? The question arose at the Tribunal this week. Readers may remember Dunlop’s dramatic reversal of strategy following Judge Flood’s asking him to consider his position, afterwhich Dunlop opened the flood gates on payments he allegedly made to councillors.
The Mahon tribunal has asked two former staff to provide details of a secret conversation they had with Frank Dunlop about allegations of corruption in the award of urban tax renewal incentives.
Tribunal lawyers have written to their former colleagues, barristers John Gallagher and Pat Hanratty, seeking information about the off-the-record conversation they had with Mr Dunlop during a private interview in 2000.
This follows a request from lawyers for the late Fine Gael councillor Tom Hand, who suggested that Mr Dunlop was protecting senior political figures by refusing to talk on the record about alleged corruption in this area.
David Burke, barrister, for Mr Hand’s estate, said Mr Dunlop’s interview with the tribunal lawyers was a private session which he believed would be kept under wraps forever. (A subsequent court decision forced its disclosure to interested parties.) Notwithstanding this, he had asked to go off the record.
“What was so sensitive that it had to be off the record?” he asked. What did Mr Dunlop know about corrupt practices with regard to tax designations? After Mr Dunlop replied that he couldn’t remember the content of his off-the-record discussions, Judge Alan Mahon said the tribunal would ask the lawyers involved.
Mr Burke claimed the witness was sacrificing “small fry” county councillors to protect bigger political fish from his allegations of planning corruption.
He questioned whether Mr Dunlop’s knowledge of corruption was limited to councillors.
“The answer empathically and irrefutably is no,” Mr Dunlop replied. “I’m not protecting anybody.”
Asked if he was aware of any corruption involving tax designations, Mr Dunlop replied: “Directly, no.”
Asked if he had indirect knowledge, he replied: “One doesn’t live in an unreal world.”