No evidence Dublin City Council reimbursed companies for protection money paid to criminals

Two men paid extortion money by three construction firms working on Ballyfermot housing developments and approved housing body

An investigation has found no evidence that Dublin City Council (DCC) reimbursed construction companies for protection money they paid to criminals in respect of construction sites in Ballyfermot.

The High Court was told in 2019 that the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) had found Derek “Dee Dee” O’Driscoll (46), of Meagans Lane, Crooksling, Saggart, Co Dublin, and David Reilly (36), of Croftgrove, Ballyfermot, were paid extortion money by three construction firms working on housing developments for the council and an approved housing body.

Retired senior counsel Patrick Butler was appointed in 2019 by the then minister for housing, Eoghan Murphy, to establish what role, if any, the council had played in the arrangement. The findings of that report, though not the report itself, has now been supplied to DCC chief executive Richard Shakespeare and members of the council.

In the summary of the findings, Fiona Quinn, an assistant secretary at the department, said Mr Butler had found no evidence from interviews with staff, or by investigating contracts, invoices and payment methods, that DCC reimbursed the contracts for the payments.

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She said An Garda Síochána had told the department in November that an investigation in the affair had concluded and the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that no charges be brought. Mr Butler found there was no evidence that members of DCC’s senior management were aware of the payment of protection money.

In respect of the approved housing body, he found no evidence existed about whether anyone in senior management had suspicions or knowledge of the payments.

“However Mr Butler also concluded that neither the management of DCC nor the approved housing body took steps to inform themselves about what activities were taking place. He pointed out that employees from both organisations were interviewed by members of An Garda Síochána about the criminal activities on the three sites but, when the employees returned to their respective workplaces, neither management took steps to inform themselves of why these interviews had taken place and did not inquire.”

As a result of this, he found, the people concerned were not in a position to assist the minister in a way they could have been “if they had made even the most basic inquiries”, Ms Quinn said in her letter.

Mr Butler found the contracts for both sites controlled by DCC were “administered with impressive control” and the tendering processes used did not disclose a vulnerability to extortion.

Among the recommendations arising from the investigation is that approved housing bodies in receipt of State funding should include in their contracts a provision that any security provided on sites be in accordance with the Private Security Services Act 2004 and that this element of the contract should be policed by the body.

It is also recommended that all local authorities should issue a direction to staff that they report immediately any forms of intimidation of the type experienced on the sites the subject of Mr Butler’s report.

“Local authorities should be obliged on receipt of such reports to report them immediately to An Garda Síochána,” Ms Quinn said.

During the 2019 High Court hearing, which resulted in the court issuing orders seizing assets with a value of almost €300,000, it was stated that two council workers suggested that the services of the criminals be engaged. The court was also told the two criminals the subject of the Cab investigation were involved in drug-dealing and other forms of criminal activity.

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