Mahon Tribunal

The Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, commonly known as the Mahon Tribunal, is a public inquiry in Ireland established by Dáil Éireann in 1997 to investigate allegations of corrupt payments to politicians regarding political decisions. It has mostly investigated planning permissions and land rezoning issues in the 1990s in the Dublin County Council area. Judge Alan P. Mahon currently chairs the tribunal and its other members are Judge Mary Faherty and Judge Gerald Keys. The original Chairman, who was the sole member until soon before his retirement, was Judge Feargus Flood, giving rise to the original common name of the Flood Tribunal.

Using investigations to collect evidence and public hearings with witnesses, it is investigating allegations made in the media prior to its establishment and allegations subsequently made to the tribunal itself. As of January 2011, the tribunal is still ongoing and it is the longest running and most expensive Irish public inquiry in history.[1] Public hearings concluded in September 2008, and following several delays due to legal challenges, the tribunal is currently preparing its final report.[2] To date, it has published four interim reports. On April 2, 2008 Taoiseach Bertie Ahern resigned due to continuing controversy over the payments.



Demise of Loughlinstown and Carrickmines

Michael Smith, a chairman of environmental body An Taisce grew up in Loughlinstown, originally a scenic area directly south of Dublin city on the Wexford road, site of the first dual carriageway in Ireland. In 1991, an intensive IR£800,000 public relations (PR) campaign to generate local support for the rezoning of hundreds of acres in Loughlinstown and nearby Cabinteely underpinned was spearheaded by public relations consultant and sports broadcaster Bill O'Herlihy and later by PR consultant and former political secretary Frank Dunlop. Some councillors firmly resisted the rezoning, supposedly concerned about the commercial and social welfare of nearby Dún Laoghaire but are alleged to have ensured that there was sufficient support from colleagues whose political bases were elsewhere. The rezoning was approved.

Former Fianna Fáil politician Liam Lawlor was presented at a public meeting concerning nearby Cherrywood as his party's "planning expert".

£10,000 reward

There had long been speculation about the extent of corruption underlying these planning decisions, and there had been several Gardaí inquiries in the 1980s and 1990s but these failed to uncover evidence.

Smith and barrister Colm Mac Eochaidh, later a Fine Gael candidate in Dublin South East in the 2002 General Election, in 1995 co-sponsored a £10,000 reward[3] for information leading to convictions for planning corruption.

James Gogarty, a retired employee of construction firm JSME, responded with information about payments to Ray Burke, a Government Minister and former Chairman of Dublin County Council.


During the formation of the new Ahern Government in June 1997, questions about the suitability of the appointment of Burke as a minister were raised. Ahern asked Dermot Ahern to investigate and defended Burke with the infamous statement:

I've looked up every tree in North Dublin.

Burke was appointed to the Government but resigned in September following further public revelations and questions. This increased pressure on the Government to investigate. The tribunal was formally established on 4th Nov 1997 to investigate the Gogarty allegations and also:

'Section (A)-5' ... if it becomes aware of .... any acts associated with the planning process ... which may in its opinion amount to corruption ... to inquire ... and report to government.

The terms dictated that the Tribunal would inquire into payments to Ray Burke in the course of his long political career and examine the decisions he had made in broadcasting as well as in planning.

The government had just months earlier also established the separate Moriarty Tribunal to investigate payments to politicians Charles Haughey and Michael Lowry


The Tribunal has organised its investigations into discrete modules:

  • The Carrickmines I Module / Jackson Way, November 20, 2002 - December 16, 2003
  • The Fox and Mahoney Module October 24, 2003 - December 4, 2003
  • The St Gerard's Bray Module October 24, 2003 - December 4, 2003
  • The Carrickmines II Module and related issues January 20, 2004 - February 13, 2004
  • The Carrickmines II Module, Phase 2, Coolamber lands - witness examination pending
  • The Arlington / Quarryvale I Module March 3, 2004 - July 2004
  • The Quarryvale II Module (hearings adjourned until further notice pending outcome of High Court application)
  • The Cherrywood Module (May 2006 - )
  • The Walls'/Kinsealy Module July 2006
  • The Lissenhall Module September 2006
  • The Tribunal is to investigate, on September 19, 2006, the alleged payment of £10,000 in cash by Frank Dunlop to councillors in respect of the rezoning of land at Cargobridge, close to Dublin Airport[4]. The rezoning proposal, for industry and air freight warehousing, was passed by a 51- 0 in March 1993 despite strong opposition from Aer Rianta.


In the course of its investigations, the tribunal has communicated with and cross-examined in public hundreds of witnesses. Among the most notable were:

James Gogarty

One of the leading witnesses in the early days was James Gogarty. Gogarty, born in Kells, County Meath was of advanced age at the start of the Tribunal. For this reason, the evidence from Gogarty was of concern, from the beginning, in case his health failed. Gogarty was a former Garda and lifelong workaholic. He then trained as an Engineer, worked as a foreman, before being promoted as a long-term executive at construction company Joseph Murphy Structural Engineers (JMSE) who had responded to the 1995 reward offer stating that he had witnessed a bribe of £30,000 being paid in cash to Minister Burke. Gogarty, by now in dispute with his former employers, claimed the payment was in seeking Burkes influence to secure approval to rezone 726 acres (2.94 km2) of land at several locations in north Dublin, including Finglas, Ballymun, Balgriffen, Portmarnock and Donabate. The lands in questions were the subject of a joint development involving JMSE, Michael Bailey, and his brother Tom Bailey. Gogarty also provided evidence of payments to George Redmond, Dublin Corporation manager. Gogarty was outspoken in his criticism of his employers, several politicians, and the entire planning process. The Irish Independent referred to Gogarty's courage, in calling him "the plucky pensioner". Gogarty received much support from the public gallery during his participation in the Tribunal. Gogarty has since died.

Ray Burke

The Tribunal's inquiries between 1997 and 2002 comprised what were in effect three Public Inquiries, that covered topics as diverse as land rezoning, radio broadcasting and offshore trusts and corporations.

The Tribunal reported in September 2002 that the payments received by Burke amounted to corrupt payments. The Report also cited witnesses who obstructed and hindered its work over the prior five years.[5]

  • Burke did not purchase his home, Briargate, in 1973 as a normal commercial transaction but a benefit conferred to ensure that Burke would act in the best interests of Oakpark Developments when performing his public duties.
  • Burke opened and maintained offshore bank accounts in the Isle of Man for the purpose of receiving and concealing corrupt payments.
  • Burke received a corrupt payment of £35,000 on May 26, 1989 in connection with the granting of a broadcasting license to Century Radio.
  • The payment to Burke on June 15, 1989 which James Gogarty witnessed was not a political donation but was paid to secure Burke's political support and was a corrupt payment

George Redmond

George Redmond was Assistant City and County Manager at Dublin Corporation in 1988. A planning application had been lodged with Dublin County Council on October 1, 1982 to build 206 houses at Forrest Road Swords. A 5-year Planning Permission was approved.

James Gogarty deposed on October 12, 1998 that Redmond had received payments from Mr Joseph Murphy. The Tribunal investigated these payments and concluded.[6]:

  • That Redmond devised a strategy which resulted in the service charge and levies payable upon the development of lands at Forrest Road being fixed at their 1983 level for a period of two years after the expiry of the Planning Permission on June 21, 1988
  • Redmond demanded 10% of the savings achieved by following his strategy as payment for his services
  • If a new planning application was made without his assistance, the service charges and levies would be fixed at least 100% more than those fixed in 1983.
  • That Redmond received a payment of no less than £12,246 for his service from Murphy and this was a corrupt payment
  • Murphy paid Redmond £15,000 at Clontarf Castle Hotel in July 1989 as compensation for not appointing him as a consultant to the Murphy landowning companies after his retirement from Dublin County Council but this was not a corrupt payment
  • Michael Bailey made 3 cash payments to Redmond in the 18 months prior to July 1989 and these were corrupt payments.
  • That Redmond hindered and obstructed the Tribunal

Bertie Ahern

Following allegations that he had received payments from developer Owen O'Callaghan, the tribunal began an investigation of the finances of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Ahern and O'Callaghan denied that any such payments had taken place. Details of specific transactions under investigation were leaked to the press and questions were asked in the Dáil. During a September 2006 interview with RTÉ's Bryan Dobson Ahern denied that he had received any illegal payments and claimed that some of the transactions related to unsolicited dig-outs from friends during his legal separation proceedings in 1993 and 1994. Further transactions relating to the purchase of his house and foreign currency conversions became public during the lead up to the Irish general election, 2007. The tribunal postponed sittings for the duration of the campaign. Ahern was re-elected Taoiseach and attended the tribunal for witness questioning in September and December 2007 and February 2008.

During a heated exchange between Ahern and Judge Mahon on February 22, 2008, Ahern stated that his former partner, Celia Larkin, received a loan of IR£30,000 from a special Fianna Fáil fundraising account to buy a house.[7] After the exchange, opposition leaders called for the Taoiseach's resignation.[8] On March 20, Ahern's former secretary, Gráinne Carruth, was forced, on evidence presented to her by the tribunal, to accept as a matter of probability that a lodgement of 15,000 pounds she had made into an account on Ahern's behalf had been in sterling. This directly contradicted to Ahern's previous assertion that the money was from his salary. Carruth had also broken down while making this admission, whereas she had previously backed up Ahern's testimony, provoking condemnation of Ahern for betraying her loyalty by forcing her to go through with her appearance. On April 2, Ahern announced his intention to resign from the position of Taoiseach, effective May 6, 2008.

Other witnesses

  • Frank Dunlop the PR adviser who in 2000 on the advice of Mr. Justice Flood reflected overnight on his evidence and on the following day began to reveal the monies he had paid to various politicians on behalf of his clients, developers seeking rezoning. His evidence was central to the tribunal findings of corruption.
  • Liam T. Cosgrave
  • Liam Lawlor
  • Property developers such as Tom Gilmartin, the Bailey Brothers, Joseph Murphy, Oliver Barry
  • Various Dublin councillors
  • Pádraig Flynn regarding IEP 50,000 received from Tom Gilmartin who claimed it was for FF not Flynn personally.


Reports and findings

To date the inquiry has published four interim reports, confirming corruption in the planning process.

The First Interim report lays out the work of the Tribunal for the coming years. It was published just after the then Flood Tribunal began its work.

First Interim Report

The Second Interim Report was published in September 2002. It reported findings related to the first three modules, Gogarty, McGowan and Century Radio/Ray Burke. It is the most substantial of the reports thus far, and caused massive controversy at the time of its publication.

See: Second Interim Report

The Third Interim Report of the Tribunal was published on September 30, 2002 by Mr Justice Fergus Flood. It deals mainly with the activities of George Redmond.

See: Third Interim Report

The Fourth Interim report informed the Oireachtas of the extent of the workload of the Tribunal and its likely duration, to inform the Oireachtas of the Tribunal’s respectful request for amendments to the current Terms of Reference and to inform the Oireachtas of other matters related to the work of the Tribunal which the Tribunal deems may be relevant to the Oireachtas.

See: Fourth Interim Report

Jail sentences

George Redmond, Ray Burke and Liam Lawlor have served jail sentences for tax evasion and non co-operation respectively.

Tax yields

The Tribunal had cost the State €21 million by 2002 but €34.5 million was recovered by the Revenue Commissioners and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The Bailey brothers and their company, Bovale Developments reached a settlement with the Revenue Commissioners in respect of PAYE, PRSI, Corporation Tax and Income Tax in 2006.

Jackson Way assets

The Criminal Assets Bureau successfully obtained a High Court order on July 26, 2006 freezing land assets of 107 acres (0.43 km2) at Carrickmines, County Dublin owned by Jackson Way Properties Ltd and preventing their sale[9]. CAB contended that these lands had been rezoned by a 13 - 11 vote on December 16, 1997 by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council from agricultural to industrial after Frank Dunlop bribed and made corrupt payments to councillors to secure their support in the rezoning vote. That vote, for example, increased the value of just 17 acres (69,000 m2) of the property from €8 million to €61 million. CAB has interviewed and taken statements from Frank Dunlop and will use him as a witness against a number of property developers.

The lands in question have been the subject of investigation by the Tribunal in 2003 and 2004.

If this case succeeds the potential money realised by CAB will be substantially more than the yield from gangland criminals since 1996. Other similar cases are likely to ensue involving lands investigated by the Tribunal.

See also


External links

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