‘They’ll Emerge Unscathed And Unsullied’



[From top: Thomas Gilmartin Jnr and, above, Thomas with host Ryan Tubridy, journalist and author Frank Connolly and singer Christy Moore on the Late Late Show last Friday night].

Tom Gilmartin, who died last November, was a  Sligo-born property developer who moved from England to Dublin in the late 1980s, to create retail developments.

However, he was targeted by several high-profile politicians who demanded either money from Mr Gilmartin or a share of any profits he made on certain developments. He was also threatened after he compared the activities of certain Fianna Fáil politicians to that of the mafia, following a demand of £5million in Leinster House.

It was Mr Gilmartin’s testimony in the Mahon Tribunal that led to the resignation of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2008.

Mr Gilmartin’s son Thomas, on a panel that included journalist Frank Connolly, author of a newly-published  biograpahy of Tom Gilmartin told the Late Late Show on Friday how his father went to the gardaí with his complaints in 1990, and how he received a chilling phonecall, supposedly from a garda, after making that official complaint.

Tom Gilmartin Jnr: “[Tom Gilmartin Snr] was told that the boss [Charles Haughey] wanted to meet him and he was brought by Liam Lawlor into the Dáil and they went up to a room on a floor, which is disputed, but, in the room, anyway, he met several Cabinet ministers very briefly, including Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds, Brian Lenihan, Ray Burke, Mary O’Rourke and Charles Haughey.”

Ryan Tubridy: “The Taoiseach, yeah?”

Gilmartin: “Then Taoiseach. The conversation was just, it was minor chat, there was nothing major in it and, as he left, Haughey asked my father, ‘I hope…is Liam taking good care of you?’ as in Liam Lawlor. My dad thought it was an odd thing to say. Anyway, outside the room, as he left the meeting, a man approached him and said, ‘hey, you’re going to do very well out of this, you know, and we’ll expect to be paid’. My dad was taken aback, he thought this was some kind of joke or something…”

Tubridy: “And we being…”

Gilmartin: “We don’t know what he meant. It could have a collective of politics or it could have been connected with…”

Tubridy: “But you don’t know…but a man outside the Taoiseach’s office…”

Gilmartin: “Directly outside.”

Tubridy: “Yeah.”

Gilmartin: “He said we want £5million deposited in an Isle of Man bank account and he gave him a piece of paper with a number on it to my father. And my father said, ‘are you serious?’. And he said, ‘yeah’. And my father said, ‘you people make the f-ing mafia look like monks’. To which the man responded, ‘You can wind up in the Liffey for making a statement like that’. Anyway, my father left. Within hours he had told a number of people including John Fortune of IBI and others about this demand. And, anyway, within a few weeks there was, there were more games being played by George Redmond and Liam Lawlor, stopping investments and screwing up meetings that were supposed to be held with roads engineers and others because they weren’t getting paid. And so my father made a complaint to Seán Haughey, who was an honourable man, even though he was Charles Haughey’s brother.”

Tubrudy: “Son.”

Gilmartin: “His brother.”

Tubridy: “His brother, sorry, his brother.”

Frank Connolly: “He was the assistant city manager.”

Tubridy: “The assistant city manager, yes, my apologies.”

Gilmartin: “And he was taken into the guards. And he told the whole story, all the demands for money that had been made and this particular incident.”

Tubridy: “And where did he go from there, after a Garda complaint?”

Gilmartin: “He was interviewed a few times on the telephone. One night he received a telephone call in Luton, at home, from someone purporting to be a Garda Burns. We don’t know whether it was a guard or it wasn’t but he was told to ‘stop making allegations of this nature against people whose names will emerge unsullied and unscathed’ and ‘eff off back to England’. This was the guards in the country. He’d gone to the police, he was essentially crying for help at this point because he was being messed around at every corner by corrupt politicians and officials and this was the response that we believe came from the guards.”

Tubridy: “Your father met with the Minister for the Environment at the time?”

Gilmartin: “That’s right.”

Tubridy: “Padraig Flynn.”

Gilmartin: “He met with Flynn, he met with several Government ministers, several of them said, well, you know, these games you’re complaining about, they might stop, if you consider making a donation to the party, to the Fianna Fáil party. And my father refused many times. Anyway, when it came to May, beginning of June, the games were continuing. [George] Redmond was still messing up meetings and so on. And my father, pretty much in a state of desperation with the police force of the country not prepared to help, the Government not interested, he said ‘ok, I have to do this’. He met Michael McLoone, the chief valuer of Dublin Corporation, that day and he said to him, ‘shouldn’t I do this? shouldn’t I do this?’. McLoone said to him ‘well, they’ll take your money and still do nothing for you’ and he said ‘well I’ve got to do something, I have to do something. I’m being destroyed here’. So he went and he met Flynn. And..”

Tubridy: “Let’s…why don’t you take it there Frank? Because as Thomas has been saying, Mr Gilmartin went to Padraig Flynn and this was again a critical point.”

Frank Connolly: “It was a very critical point. But it’s also critical because it was actually during the famous 1989 election campaign. And we know from the other modules of the tribunal that other Fianna Fáil ministers at the, during that period, were taking monies wherever they could get them, including the former minister Ray Burke of course. It was Ray Burke who ended up with the police report on his desk and it was never seen again until Tom Gilmartin, until the tribunal discovered Tom Gilmartin in 1998. So, Tom decides that he’s going to make a donation to the party. He heads up to the Custom House, which is the department where Flynn had his department in Dublin, the department of the environment. He goes into his office, Flynn is wrapping up for the day, it’s in the early evening, end of the week, and as Thomas said, it’s an election campaign. Tom says ‘I want to make a donation to the party. I’m trying to get my projects going. I’m told this is the only way I can do it, excuse me, and he says, who do I make it out to? I’m going to give £50,000 to Fianna Fáil’. Flynn says ‘Oh that’s grand, I’m in a terrible rush’ and he’s packing his bag, he’s heading off to the West, to canvass, ‘just leave it blank, it’s grand, we’ll sort it out’. And, as a result of that, and possibly naively Tom Gilmartin left the payee on the cheque blank and filled it for £50,000. And we know subsequently that that money ended up in the former minister’s personal bank account. So it was, as I say, an election period, it was several months later, several years later indeed that he discovered in late 1990, the following year, that the monies hadn’t actually been received by the party because he met senior party officials, who kept asking him, ‘when are you going to make a donation to the party?’. He said, ‘I’ve made one…”

Talk over each other

Tubridy: “Back in 1989.”

Connolly: “There was no record of it having been received by the party.”

Tubridy: “So, respectfully, I put to you that your dad did sign a cheque for £50,000, to pay Fianna Fáil, to get stuff done, I mean you don’t pay £50,000 just for the good of your health. He did sign a cheque to a politician for what could arguably some might say was a favour?”

Gilmartin: “Well, only if you believe the favour is being put in a position you should be in legally.”

Tubridy: “Sure.”

Gilmartin: “He was being subjected to an extortion racket because the Government of the day was being run as an extortion racket. To say then well should…”

Tubridy: “Members of the Government or the Government in its entirety…?”

Gilmartin: “No, there are decent people in all parties, in that Government there would have been decent people too. There are, there’s a certain cabal within the Government…”

Tubridy: “Right.”

Gilmartin: “…involved in this kind of activity. The Fianna Fáil party at that time was pretty much hijacked by a small group of people.”

Tubridy: “Right. This didn’t just affect your father’s business in Ireland because the British Revenue started sniffing around, if you’ll excuse the expression, your home in the UK. What happened and when?”

Gilmartin: “This is a little later, at the early 1990s, this is at the point where the AIB and others had become involved in the project. My father had been forced into a minor stake in a company, in his own company. And, among many things done, in order to try to take over control of the company, and to force my father out of the company one of them was that false information was given to the Inland Revenue in Britain – that he owed this huge amount of money in Dublin. The Inland Revenue in Britain told us the information came from Dublin and…”

Tubridy: “And what impact was that to have on your family circumstances?”

Gilmartin: “Devastating. And not only was it a false demand. My father was made bankrupt. When they called at the door, the Inland Revenue, the media were waiting, again on a tip-off from Dublin, and they knocked the door in and knocked my mother to the ground, she had multiple sclerosis. And the Inland Revenue apologised and said we had nothing to do with the media, we don’t know why they’re there. There were stories in the newspapers, planted from Dublin, about this huge tax bill. We were made bankrupt, we had no money. My father couldn’t draw the dole. My mother, as I said, had multiple sclerosis, she was struggling every day to try and put food on the table. Often we had no food in the fridge, we were struggling, we were living off hand-outs. And my mother collapsed under the stress and she has never recovered to this day. She was put under extraordinary stress. I remember that period very well, it was not pleasant. Now I don’t want to make out that this is, you know, that we’re uniquely hard done by, we lived comfortably before that, we lived comfortably since that. But, in this period, it was very, very distressing.”

Tubridy: “But you’re associating everything, what was happening, essentially what was happening in Dublin was connected in some way, through sinister, shadowy activities…”

Gilmartin: “What was being done to my family in England was being directly orchestrated from Dublin.”

Tubridy: “Frank, if we fast forward again to 1995, to that ad in the newspaper, which again changed things an awful lot, looking for information that would be useful regarding corruption in the planning of, in the area of planning. That was something that would move the story on considerably.”

Connolly: “Well, obviously, that was a huge breakthrough and I actually was introduced as a result of that ad to Jim Gogarty, who has also died since, and he was the one who gave me the information about the cheque, the famous cheque, again in that same period, in the election of 1989, where he was present in a room when he said Ray Burke received two large amounts of money from two developers…”

Tubridy: “And Tom Gilmartin wasn’t going to get involved in all of this…”

Connolly: “Well, Tom didn’t, this led eventually to Burke’s resignation and, as we know late in 1997, and the setting up of a tribunal. The Taoiseach then, the newly-installed Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced the setting up of what was then know as the Flood Tribunal. And they started to look for information. The first major module was about Ray Burke and associated issues, including Frank Lawlor, Liam Lawlor’s activities, etc. But they then discovered, in early 1998, only months afterwards, the Garda report from 1990 that had never been disclosed. And they found the allegation made by Tom Gilmartin to the guards that he’d been hit for money left, right and centre. And they saw the words in the statement that were made. And they went and checked out Tom. They found Tom Gilmartin through actually a priest, a friend of one of the lawyers in the tribunal, in Luton, met him and Tom explained how he had been told, in a phonecall, from a man who claimed he was a Garda, that these people will emerge with their reputations unscathed and unsullied, as Tom said earlier on. The lawyers were looking at this, that was the exact words used in the Garda report, so of course they knew, this man clearly had been wronged and they followed the trail from there.”

Watch back in full here