It’s about time that this was said – the Mahon Tribunal report is a nearly complete vindication of Tom Gilmartin. Without him, no-one would know about Bertie Ahern, Frank Dunlop, or the corruption ring that infested Irish life in the 1990s. Tom Gilmartin has been shown by the report to be the man who gave the Tribunal its biggest success – the exposing of Frank Dunlop as a bagman for corrupt politicians. It was Gilmartin who exposed a corruption ring on Dublin County Council. Gilmartin rarely, if ever, gets the credit for this, but it was indeed he who tipped off the Tribunal that he suspected that Dunlop was using a company called Shefran Limited as a false front to receive tens of thousand in round-figure VAT-free money from Owen O’Callaghan. And so it turned out – false invoices were put up years later to cover this money-laundering operation. Dunlop has continued to lie and cover-up since his so-called ‘conversion’ in April 2000, particularly to cover for O’Callaghan – hopefully today’s report will finally lay to rest that completely false narrative.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Gilmartin’s allegations about what he said O’Callaghan told him in relation to payments to senior and junior politicians, in particular in relation to Ahern, have been completely vindicated. The Tribunal found in its report that he was telling the truth – that O’Callaghan did tell him (as he told Eamon Dunphy) that he paid Ahern. They say that they can’t prove whether the payment itself actually happened because Ahern’s evidence was a stream of falsehoods, but that Gilmartin told the truth.
The issue now is whether you believe O’Callaghan was telling the truth when he boasted to two different people about paying Ahern. The circumstances of the second Ahern payment, the 30K in return for blocking tax designation for Blanchardstown, are particularly interesting. 30K was alleged to have been given to Ahern by O’Callaghan to stop Blanchardstown shopping centre getting favourable tax designation – Gilmartin said that O’Callaghan told him after a board meeting at AIB centre branch – he said that O’Callaghan assured them that there was no chance of Blanchardstown getting tax designation because he had been told ‘from the horse’s mouth’ (i.e. Ahern, the minister for Finance). Lo and behold, that AIB notes from that time show that they were indeed worried about Blanchardstown getting designation and that O’Callaghan assured them that he had it from the powers that be that it wouldn’t happen. So Gilmartin has been proved right about the circumstances, it is only the payment bit that hasn’t been mentioned.
Now Gilmartin got the date of the meeting wrong – he said ’92 or ’93, but it was actually early ’94. And, what do you know, within a few weeks of that meeting 30K turns up in Ahern’s account for which his explanation does not hold water. And what else – he met O’Callaghan’s bagman Frank Dunlop that very morning.Tom Gilmartin was brought to the attention of the Tribunal in 1998 when they read the findings of the joke Garda investigation into political corruption and the allegations he had made way back then about corruption in Dublin. Someone who had knowledge of the Garda investigation rang him at home and told him to ‘***** off back to England’ and not be making allegations that sully the names of decent people like George Remond, Liam Lawlor, and Finbar Hanrahan. The final report of the Gardai was to the effect that gossip was rife in Ireland and was unfair to such people, and echoing the comments that were made to Gilmartin on the phone said that those people emerged with their good name ‘unsullied’. The Gardaí were reporting to the Minister for Justice, one Ray Burke.
It was in that context that Gilmartin, being frustrated at every turn by corrupt politicians and officials demanding money in return for them not deliberately obstructing him in his projects, and being told by several (including Bertie Ahern and Pádraig Flynn) in complete desperation, essentially being blackmailed by the political establishment, went to Flynn and made out a cheque to Fianna Fáil. Gilmartin had already been in contact with Bertie Ahern, and had told him on the phone what was being done by Lawlor and Redmond. Ahern asked him for a donation too. He had been asked several times and had refused point blank – he only relented when he realised that he would lose everything if George Redmond and Liam Lawlor were allowed to get away with what they were already doing quite effectively (******** up meetings, scaring off Gilmartin’s potential investors, tipping off rivals so that Gilmartin would have to pay twice as much for land).
Gilmartin subsequently ended up in completely dire straits – he was declared bankrupt in the UK because he couldn’t get the Dublin projects moving. He was forced to sign over the majority of his company to Owen O’Callaghan and AIB. While Gilmartin was destitute and his family didn’t even have welfare payments to keep them, his wife buckled under the stress which had accumulated – she had MS and the stress of trying to survive without any money made her collapse. At the same time, O’Callaghan was boasting to Gilmartin about the payments he was making to politicians like Colm McGrath. Two 10K payments were made by O’Callaghan – one to Lawlor, one to McGrath, and both were written up by O’Callaghan’s company as ‘expenses’ in the accounts, then falsely ascribed to Tom Gilmartin in the Quarryvale accounts.
Gilmartin openly accused O’Callaghan and AIB of corruption at board meetings – witnesses attest to it. He demanded to know who or what Shefran Limited was and why so much money went to it, he got no reply. It transpires, as the Tribunal have found, that Shefran was used to hide the scale of payments going out of the Quarryvale company to Dunlop because O’Callaghan and AIB knew that Gilmartin would utterly refuse to countenance such payments.
Gilmartin has been through a huge trauma. His period trying to do business in Ireland was despicable enough in the treatment he received at the hands of the officials, politicians, and police of this country. He had no need to come to Ireland, he was already very successful in England, but he hoped to do something to help Ireland – he thought that he could create jobs to stop young people having to emigrate like he did at a time Ireland was on its knees economically. Then, when he came back to give evidence to the tribunal, he was not only disbelieved, he was put through a sustained and systematic process of vilification and ridicule by politicians up to and including the Taoiseach and his Cabinet, but also by a number of prominent journalists and commentators. His evidence made possible the exposure of a litany of corruption that would never have been exposed otherwise.
This country owes Gilmartin a debt of gratitude and a grovelling apology for what he has been put through. He came to Ireland to do some good and ended up being put through hell. Today’s report finally, to some extent, puts the record right, but he is owed an awful lot more for what has been done to him and his family.
Toxic Avenger 24.3.2012