Don Lydon

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Donal John Lydon (born 7 August 1938 in Dublin) is a psychologist and a former Irish politician. He was a Fianna Fáil member of Seanad Éireann from 1987 to 2007, being elected on the Labour Panel.

Professional career[edit]

Lydon was educated at Saint Eunan's College, Letterkenny, County Donegal; University College Galway; University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin. His Bachelors Degree was in Sociology and English and his postgraduate work was in the area of Education and Psychology. In addition Lydon has worked as a Consulting Psychologist. He was for a number of years non-executive director of Connsbrook Productions Limited and also a non-executive of Corona Holidays Limited in Dublin.

He has published a number of papers in professional journals mostly in the area of Alcoholism or Psychopathology in Adolescents. He was the first Psychologist in Ireland to be awarded a Council of Europe Medical Fellowship in 1977 in order to go abroad to study “Residential Treatment of Disturbed Adolescents”.

Political career[edit]

He was a member of Dublin County Council from 1985 to 1993 and was a member of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council from 1994 to 2002. He was first elected to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and was elected at all subsequent elections until his defeat at the 2007 election. He has at various times been the Senior Senate Spokesman on Justice, Senior Senate Spokesman on the Department of the Taoiseach and European Affairs, Senior Senate Spokesman on European Affairs, and laterally held the position of Spokesman on Foreign Affairs with Special Responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights.

He has served as a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Women’s Rights, the Joint Services Committee, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social, Community & Family Affairs and was laterally a member of the Joint Parliamentary European Affairs Committee.

He famously grabbed the Green Party TD Trevor Sargent in a headlock when Sargent waved a cheque, sent to him by a builder, during a speech in the council chamber of Dublin Corporation in the 1990s.[1] Lydon was nominated as a candidate for the 23rd Seanad in 2007 and stood as a member of Fianna Fáil. His proposers included Senator Tom Morrissey, former Fianna Fáil Senator Margaret Cox and Fianna Fáil TD Ned O'Keeffe. He lost his Seanad seat in the 2007 election.

He was a member of the Irish Council of the European Movement and served as Vice-Chairman from 1991-1993.He was also a member of both the Council and Executive of The Institute of European Affairs.

Donations disclosed to Standards Commission[edit]

TDs, Senators and MEPs were required to furnish to the Standards Commission their Donations Statements and accompanying documentation each year. Any donations with a value exceeding €634.87 received during the year must be disclosed. The maximum value of donations which can be accepted from the same donor in the same calendar year is €2,539.48. Donations received from the same donor must be aggregated and regarded as a single donation for the purposes of the disclosure to the Standards Commission and maximum acceptance limits. TDs, Senators and MEPs are prohibited from accepting anonymous donations exceeding €126.97 or foreign donations of any value.

Lydon dislosed one donation over £500 to the Commission between 1997 and 2005. This was in respect of a political donation of £1,000 received in 1999 from Castlemarket Holdings Limited at the time of the Local Government election.[2]

Mahon Tribunal[edit]

The Mahon Tribunal, previously known as The Flood Tribunal was established by the Irish Government in November 1997. This Inquiry uncovered evidence of politicians and former politicians accepting substantial donations from property developers which coincided with planning decisions that favoured the interests' of donors.

Lydon was examined in the course of several modules of inquiry. Lydon proposed the 11 November 1993 motion to Dublin County Council that enabled the development proposed by Monarch Properties at Cherrywood, County Dublin and he was regarded as the main access to Fianna Fáil support for Monarch proposals. The motion was passed by 44 - 27 votes. A second motion favouring Monarch was signed by Lydon on 10 October 1994. Lydon admitted that he was the most prominent Fianna Fáil supporter of Monarch proposals at the Council.

Lead Councillor[edit]

Bill O'Herlihy a public relations consultant retained by Monarch Properties in 1991, told the Tribunal on 7 June 2006 that he was told by Mr. Richard Lynn in the bar of the Royal Dublin hotel that members of Dublin County Council were alleged to pocket £50,000 per year in return for favourable planning decisions. This 'hearsay evidence' indicated that transaction process involved a property developer developing a bilateral relationship with a lead councillor. The lead councillor would then determine with colleagues what exactly was required to secure a particular vote on a planning or rezoning matter. The lead councillor cited by O'Herlihy in respect of Monarch's interests was Lydon.[3] Lynn told the Tribunal that he had never told this to O'Herlihy and stated that he was not in the Royal Dublin at the time specified by O'Herlihy but was actually at a meeting of Dublin County Council. This appears to have been confirmed by Dunlop's evidence to the Tribunal.

Lydon, in evidence, on 19 July 2006 also disputed O'Herlihy's allegation but did acknowledge that Monarch Properties used to take large numbers of councillors to restaurants "all over the place" when planning decisions in respect of Cherrywood were pending and that he proposed a Monarch related motion on 27 May 1992.[4] Lydon told the Tribunal on 19 July 2006 that the allegations made against him had damaged his chances of getting elected for a sixth term to the Seanad.[5] It was accepted on Lydon's behalf on 25 July that a Tribunal has the discretion to accept hearsay evidence in the common good.[6]

The Tribunal has been requested to rule on the admissibility of O'Herlihy's hearsay evidence which it did on 27 July noting that Lydon had been afforded an opportunity to challenging such evidence, which he has already done.[7]

Evidence to Fianna Fáil inquiry[edit]

Lydon admitted to the Tribunal that evidence he presented to a Fianna Fáil internal inquiry in 2000 into payments received was "wrong" He told that inquiry that he received payments of £400 to £500 from Monarch Properties at the time of the 1991 and 1999 local elections as well as a contribution of £1,000 towards his 1993 Seanad election campaign. He told the Mahon Tribunal that he had in fact received £600 1991; £2,500 in 1992/92 and £450 in 1999 from this source. He also received an unsolicited political donation £1,000 from Monarch lobbyist Frank Dunlop in 1992/93 for the Senate campaign and a political donation of £250 in 1999 for the Local Government election campaign.

Lydon neglected to disclose to the Inquiry, until his attention was drawn to this on 1 May 2003, that he received £5,000 from a developer in a pub in Goatstown in 1992 because the Inquiry "never asked him about these things". Lydon subsequently proposed a rezoning motion in respect of lands in County Dublin owned by this donor. He also neglected to disclose this money to the internal Fianna Fáil inquiry, details of which were to be forwarded to the Tribunal, nor did he seek to correct his evidence subsequently and he did not consider that his failure to do so adversely impacted his reputation.

Seven election contests, one fund raising event[edit]

Lydon only held one fund-raising event in respect of the 7 elections he contested. This took place in 1991 at The Goat Grill from which a couple of hundred pounds were raised. He explains "I was very lucky, people gave me a lot of money" and that he would take money from anybody "except gangsters" if it helped him retain his elected positions. He was never bothered about the perception associated with accepting money and the consequential impact of his vote on planning and rezoning decisions.[citation needed]

Lobbyists' role: 'Keep councillors happy'[edit]

Lydon confirmed in response to the Tribunal that he received no donations, benefits, gifts or assistance from, or o behalf of developers, connected to decisions relating to Quarryvale, west Dublin. He viewed the function of lobbyists as one of keeping councillor happy - that is buy them drinks, meals and send them money at election time.[citation needed]

Following the establishment of the Tribunal, Frank Dunlop stated in sworn evidence that he met Lydon in the car park of St John of Gods Hospital and that the Tribunal were taping telephones and that he, Dunlop, should be careful about what he said on the telephone about people, particularly politicians. This was rejected by Lydon as being false when he gave evidence to the Tribunal.

Carrickmines rezoning[edit]

Dunlop told the Tribunal in May 2003 that Lydon asked Dunlop for a £5,000 bribe to rezone 108 acres (0.44 km2) at Jackson Way, Carrickmines, County Dublin for industrial use but that he accepted £3,000 three days after he, Lydon, signed the Council motion in 1992. These allegations were rejected totally by Lydon when he gave evidence on the basis that the two meetings mentioned by Dunlop did not take place. This evidence was supported by sworn evidence given by independent third parties confirming that Dunlop's allegations were false. Dunlop has since retracted two further allegations he made against Lydon but refused to apologise to Lydon for the damage these false allegations may have done to Lydon's reputation.

Criminal Assets Bureau investigation[edit]

The Criminal Assets Bureau secured a freezing order from the High Court on 26 July 2007 based on its investigation of corruption in respect of bribes allegedly paid to councillors by Frank Dunlop to secure the rezoning on 16 December 1997 by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council of 107 acres (0.43 km2) of land assets owned by Jackson Way Properties at Carrickmines. This rezoning was investigated by the Mahon Tribunal in 2003. Lydon now stands charged with corruption following his district court appearance on Friday 22 October 2010 along with 3 other former FF councillors.[8]

Senate expense claims[edit]

In 2004, Lydon changed his place of residence from Dublin to Donegal to qualify for a different travel and subsistence rate, despite living and working in Dublin. Lydon's yearly claim for travel and subsistence varied from €37,000 to €39,000 during the years 2004 to 2006, (in 2007 he claimed €24,000 as he only worked for 7 months).[9] It has been reported that there will not be an investigation into his expenses as "there is no provision for looking into the expenses claims of former members of the Oireachtas"[10]

On 27 March 2012, after been named in the final report of the Mahon Tribunal for receiving corrupt payments,[11] Lydon resigned from Fianna Fáil before he could be expelled.[12]

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