South County Dublin Development Plan

Developers in bid to push ahead with rezoning of 280 acres in west Dublin

Screamed the headline in the Sunday Tribune a few weeks back. It reminded me of some of the headlines that surrounded rezonings back in the early 1990s. As it turns out, it is not that far removed.

The article says:

Although councillors voted by 19 votes to two against motion put forward by a Progressive Democrat councillor in support of the development two years ago, Sandymark Ltd said it believes its new proposal to rezone some 280 acres of land “ticks all the boxes” and is confident it will be passed.

However, deputy county manager Tom Doherty, who strongly opposed the “entirely inappropriate” previous plans in a report to the council at the time, has told the Sunday Tribune that “it is not considered that there is any reason to vary the views set out in that report”.

Sounds familiar. Interestingly:

The lands include approximately 30 acres owned by Laurence Harney, a brother of former Progressive Democrat leader and health minister Mary Harney, who has said in the past she has “no beneficial interest whatsoever” in the transaction.

It continues:

The land is owned by a group of local landowners and Sandymark, and is located between Newcastle and Rathcoole, not far from Citywest and the commuter towns of Lucan and Clondalkin.

In a document circulated to local residents in Newcastle recently, Sandymark claims that “despite the current economic crisis, the need and demand for houses will return”. It says it hopes to begin construction in late 2011 or early 2012.

A spokeswoman said the number of residential units envisaged had decreased from around 4,000 to 2,500 over 15 years, while the number of acres to be rezoned had fallen from 425 to around 280.

Gosh it’s like a timewarp. No doubt any rezoning of this land would result in much higher land values, so Sandymark and Mr Harney would gain much from a decision by South Dublin County Council to rezone. I was curious about this crowd Sandymark, so I went a digging.

There are actually two Sandymark companies, Sandymark Investments Ltd and Sandymark Construction Ltd.

Sandymark Investments is located at Greenogue Industrial Estate, Co Dublin. Sandymark Investments recently registered a mortgage, financed by Bank of Ireland, for the purchase of lands at Ashbrooke, known as the Murphy lands, owned by Michael Murphy and Michael Murphy Jnr.

Here is the register of the mortgage.

But who owns Sandymark Investments? Well it’s owned by two more companies, Maple Nominees and Maple Secretaries. Here is the memorandum of association for the company.

And who owns the Maple firms? Well I had a look at the books of Maple Secretaries, purely out of curiosity. The directors are listed here. That would be the same solicitors listed on the forms for Sandymark. And note that the address given for the Maple companies is the same address as the solicitor firm in question.

Laurence K Shields
Edmund Butler
Hugh Garvey
Gerry Halpenny
Emmett Scully
Alan Browning (Secretary)

Now one of those names piqued my interest, Hugh Garvey. It rang a bell so I went a Googling. They all work as partners at Mr Shields’ firm on Upper Mount Street. I recognised Hugh Garvey because he represented certain people at the Tribunals.

Of course this got me really interested. So I went digging further.

Well look here. Back in 2002, Sandymark Investments gave £1,000 to one Councillor Colm McGrath (Ind but formerly of FF). If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because it is.

Mr McGrath is one of the councillors Frank Dunlop claims to have given bribes to. Indeed, Mr McGrath admits to receiving “political donations” from Dunlop. Mr McGrath made several appearances at the Mahon Tribunal, as you can see here. One of the donations involved Dunlop handing Mr McGrath £2,000 cash in a copy of the Irish Times.

He failed to get elected to South Dublin County Council in the 2004 election.

Mr McGrath has an interesting history. He was one of the Top Fifteen back in the early 1990s, or among the top councillors proposing or seconding Section Fours and material contravention motions between 1985 and 1991. He backed the rezoning of the Quarrvale lands from the beginning, lands at the centre of the Quarryvale II module at the Tribunal, made infamous by Bertie Ahern’s alleged involvement.

In October 2007, Frank Dunlop told the Mahon Tribunal that property developer Owen O’Callaghan paid off a debt of £10,700 for Colm McGrath when he was facing a court judgment.

Another interesting bit in all this: Mary Harney’s brother. Mr Harney was listed as a defaulter by the Revenue in 2001.

Of course I am not suggesting anything untoward in the behaviour of Sandymark. They are seeking to rezone the lands, and are doing so in an entirely legal manner. The donation to Mr McGrath was also declared, so all is above board. I was just interested in the names and the faces.

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