22 November 2008

Frank Dunlop charged with Corruption

Dublin lobbyist, ex-journalist and former Fianna Fáil and Government Press Secretary Frank Dunlop (left) was arrested by members of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) yesterday afternoon and has appeared in court in Dublin on corruption charges.

He is accused of bribing eight public representatives, six from Fianna Fáil and two from Fine Gael, and it is alleged that he paid them sums ranging from Ir£ 1000 to Ir£ 3000 to vote in favour of rezoning land at Carrickmines.

Those named in the charge sheets as having been bribed by Frank Dunlop are former Senators Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael and Don Lydon of Fianna Fáil.
Also named are Fianna Fáil Councillors Tony Fox, Sean Gilibride, Colm McGrath, the late Jack Larkin, the late Cyril Gallagher and Fine Gael's late Councillor Tom Hand.

The money is alleged to have been handed over at the Davenport Hotel and at Buswell's Hotel in Dublin, at Conway's pub, at Mr. Dunlop's own offices, and in the case of the former Senator Don Lydon, at St. John of Gods' in Dublin.

Five of the charges relate to alleged payments he made to Liam Cosgrave and five more relate to Tony Fox (right), who is still representing Fianna Fáil on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Detective Garda Martin Harrington from the CAB told the court that Frank Dunlop was arrested yesterday. When he was charged with the offences, he replied: "We always knew this day was coming and I will not be contesting the charges."

The court was told the Book of Evidence in the case was ready and Dunlop was handed a copy of it in the courtroom.

Judge Cormac Dunne acceded to a request by counsel for Frank Dunlop and sent the case forward to the next sitting of the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
He told him that if he intended to rely on alibi evidence he was to inform the prosecution and he remanded Dunlop on bail of his own bond of € 100.

For those who are not familiar with Frank Dunlop, or are too young to remember his past, it is worth to reflect on the career of the now 61-year-old Dubliner, who was born in Co. Kilkenny.

He first came to the public's attention when he was appointed press secretary of Fianna Fáil in 1974, with an office based at Leinster House. He then became head of the Irish Government's Information Service and Government Press Secretary (under Taoisigh Jack Lynch, Charles J. Haughey and Garret FitzGerald) from 1977 to 1982. The special position had been established on Dunlop's own recommendation.

His role involved developing relationships with the media, especially The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, other newspapers and RTÉ. (There were no other authorised radio stations in Ireland at that time, although there were quite a number of illegal broadcasters.)

Prior to Dunlop's appointment, the Government Information Service was the established unit of the Taoiseach's office for the dissemination of information relating to government activities. Dunlop described its role to the Mahon Tribunal in 2003 as being "a post office - it just delivered copies of statements, speeches, announcements and CSO details to the news desks of the papers; there was no substantive policy discussions with the media prior to that time".

Dunlop's objective was to facilitate 'an understanding in the media of what Fianna Fáil was doing or was about at that time'. This role enabled him to develop significant relationships with political correspondents, news reporters, editorial personnel and politicians.

Following a change in government, Dunlop was established as a civil servant with the rank of Assistant Secretary. He moved to the Department of Education when John Boland was the Minister, and his role was liaison with the media. He also made some inputs on policy matter on education.

Subsequently he moved with Boland to the Department of the Environment and worked there for about two years as Assistant Secretary, with responsibility for media matters. But he had no influence on planning matters then.

In 1986 Frank Dunlop, then aged 39, left the Civil Service and became a public relations consultant with the Dublin firm Murray Consultants. He had a director's role which involved developing a portfolio of clients. Dunlop's prior experience in government and the Civil Service made him uniquely qualified as a lobbyist, and he made extensive use of his contacts.

Where and when he began bribing politicians of various levels will undoubtedly be established during his trial. But one thing is certain: He is only the very small tip of an immense iceberg of corruption that was - and still is - an integral part of Irish politics.

The Emerald Islander

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