Property developer Jim Kennedy, had a diverse portfolio of businesses, but is remembered for his part in land rezoning scandal that was the focus of the Mahon Tribunal
Controversial property developer Jim Kennedy from Co. Laois has died in a London hospital. The father of ten was a man of many trades including farmer, auctioneer, publican, and slot machine operator.
His death was confirmed last week by his wife, Antoinette Kennedy. He was 76 and died after a brief illness.
Originally from Abbeyleix, Co Laois, Mr. Kennedy was once a prominent figure in the construction and redevelopment sector. However, he faced accusations of activities related to land rezoning in the 1990s, as revealed by the official Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters & Payments.
A trial involving Mr Kennedy collapsed in 2013 when the chief State witness, former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, fell ill.
Mr Dunlop had testified that Mr Kennedy gave him £25,000 in cash to pay bribes to councillors and other officials in order to get land in Carrickmines, south Dublin rezoned in 1991.
The claims were strongly denied by Mr Kennedy, though the tribunal concluded that he had been “aware” that Mr Dunlop may be required to pay money to councillors in the course of his “lobbying endeavours on Mr Kennedy’s behalf.”
Mr. Kennedy, who had previously renounced his Irish citizenship, resided in the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. In 2010, he returned to Ireland, but his homecoming was marred by his arrest by the Criminal Assets Bureau on suspicion of bribery. The bureau sought to recover €53 million from Jackson Way Properties, a company connected to Mr. Kennedy, over alleged corrupt enrichment from the sale of 17 acres of land in Carrickmines, Dublin.
The developer strongly denied all charges of corruption related to the rezoning allegations. Despite being central to the tribunal’s investigation into the Carrickmines lands, he refused to appear before the inquiry. The case faced challenges due to the ill-health of a key witness, former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, who had previously served time for bribing councillors.
In its final report in 2013, the tribunal acknowledged Mr. Dunlop’s testimony, which indicated that Mr. Kennedy was aware of the need to pay councillors to secure political support for rezoning. The tribunal found that corrupt activities had taken place between Mr. Dunlop and Mr. Kennedy.
While Mr. Dunlop did not report to Mr. Kennedy on the payments made to councillors, the requirement for such payments was a crucial factor in their dealings. This led the tribunal to conclude that both men were involved in corrupt activities.
From a farming background in Abbeyleix, Mr. Kennedy’s career rose to prominence as an auctioneer and property developer based in Lucan, Co Dublin. Throughout his life, he maintained friendships with influential figures such as the late George Redmond, a former assistant Dublin county and city manager who was also implicated in the tribunal.