FORMER GOVERNMENT press secretary Frank Dunlop has been jailed for two years and fined €30,000 for corruption after admitting bribing councillors to rezone land in Carrickmines, Co Dublin.
Judge Frank O’Donnell said the public interest required a custodial sentence for Dunlop but suspended the final six months of the jail term in light of his admissions before the court and the planning tribunal.
Dunlop (62), of Rathbeggan, Dunboyne, Co Meath, kissed his wife Sheila and hugged his daughter Sinead before prison officers led him away from Dublin Central Criminal Court. His lawyers are expected to appeal the sentence.
“The word must go out from this court that the corruption of politicians, or anyone in public life, must attract significant penalties,” Judge O’Donnell told Dunlop before imposing sentence.
The public interest required a custodial sentence that amounted to more than a rap on the knuckles, he said.
The judge said there was no such thing as a victimless crime. Although there was no readily identifiable victim in this case, he had no doubt that Dunlop by his actions had actively undermined the confidence of the public in the democratic system. In the case, the public, the institutions of State and the democratic system were the victims, he continued. Judge O’Donnell said Dunlop was motivated by gain and, as a former Fianna Fáil and government press secretary, was in a dominant position. He was perceived as a person with the power to influence people in higher authority over a long period of time.
Pointing out that the charges related to separate acts of corruption in 1992 and 1997, the judge said Dunlop had had no hesitation in renewing his corrupt practices after a long gap. “You have every opportunity to reflect on what you were about.
“Some people who come before me knowingly commit crimes through a haze of addiction. What you did, you did with a long-range, focused, criminal intent.”
Last January, Dunlop pleaded guilty to five sample charges, having originally been charged with 16 counts of bribing Dublin county councillors.
Judge O’Donnell imposed terms of between one and two years for each of the five counts of bribery, all of them to run concurrently. The other counts were taken into consideration.
He suspended the final six months and gave Dunlop six months to pay the fine. Judge O’Donnell noted Dunlop’s co-operation with gardaí and willingness to give evidence against former councillors in any future corruption cases. He said he took into account the evidence of the head of Dunlop’s legal team during the tribunal which stated that he was now a “social pariah”. He also considered the evidence of a leading cardiologist who said Dunlop suffered from a serious heart condition which will affect his longevity.
“No doubt the present criminal charges have contributed to this,” the judge commented. “All these are the natural and foreseeable consequences of your actions, not the penalties for them.” Judge O’Donnell refused an application for permission to appeal.
Dunlop pleaded guilty to giving £3,000 to former Fianna Fáil senator Don Lydon at St John of God’s Hospital in Dublin; £2,000 to Fianna Fáil councillor Colm McGrath and £1,000 to Fianna Fáil councillor Seán Gilbride, all in 1992, in relation to the rezoning of lands at Carrickmines for development.
He also pleaded guilty to giving money to former Fine Gael senator Liam Cosgrave at Buswells Hotel in Dublin in 1997, and a further sum of money to Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fox the same year, also in relation to Carrickmines.