Let’s be honest with ourselves about George Redmond, the former Assistant City Manager of Dublin, who died recently at the age of 92.
George was a crook and we all knew it. Everyone in Dublin Corporation knew it. The Planning Tribunal knew it. Every journalist in Ireland knew it. But most of all, the developers knew it, and like the hyenas they were, they took full advantage of George’s greed to destroy Dublin and make themselves a fortune in the process.
George was a crony of every double-dealer from Matt Gallagher to Tom Roche. He was a pal of all those ignorant, aggressive, uneducated but brutal men who systematically raped this country in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. A crony of rotten public representatives like Liam Lawlor. Enemies of the State, every one of them. Terrorists in their own brash, mohair-suited way. As destructive to our way of life as TB or mass emigration.
The vectors of poverty writ large in the shape of clown-faced men with stripy suits, red noses and no soul.
These were the men (and they were all men) who demolished Georgian Dublin under the benign oversight of successive philistine governments that viewed such buildings as the work of the hated English and who turned a blind eye, occluded all the more by a hefty wad of cash inserted in the way thanks to developers who cared nothing for history, craftsmanship or common decency.
And thus it was that over the years, George facilitated these cynics to drain a fine city of its architectural heritage in the name of the overarching principle that had defined his whole life: money. Thus it was that George not only allowed, but caused his native city to fall into decay in the name of private, venal profit: his own and that of the people who paid him.
According to the Planning Tribunal, George Redmond was receiving the equivalent value of a substantial house every year from corrupt payments. Let’s call it a million a year but what did George do with all this money?
Did he splurge in Las Vegas? No. Of course he didn’t. Don’t be silly.
Did he go crazy on cocaine and hookers? Absolutely not.
Did he, perhaps, buy himself a nice car, something extravagant and gangster-like? A Ford Focus, maybe. Or a Golf? No he did not because George was both too limited and too mean.
Contrary to popular belief, George Redmond wasn’t a professional planner, even though he controlled the planning department. In fact he had no professional training at all. He started as a clerk, a small man with a sharp mind who sneaked his way into a position of power but didn’t understand what to do with it apart from collecting bank-notes.
George, you see, was a miser.
George took all the money from the dodgy builders like Matt Gallagher and Tom Roche, and he hid it in his bathroom, in great thick wads of cash, while walking in and out of Dublin to his job because he was too stingy to pay for a bus or a train. Years later, when he found himself in front of the Planning Tribunal, this man who had hundreds of thousands stashed under his bath complained bitterly because a judge wouldn’t adjourn long enough to let him walk home for his lunch, thus forcing him to pay for a sandwich in the local deli.
George once boasted that he was Dublin Corporation, and when it came to planning matters, perhaps he was. He certainly collected most of the planning fees, but his boast points a spotlight on the various men who were his bosses during his career. It’s true that George had the delegated planning function but ultimately he also had many city managers to whom he theoretically answered. Did none of them ask what was going on, and if not, why not? Was it not plain to them, and to everyone who worked for him, that George was utterly corrupt? Why, for example, didn’t Frank Feely ask himself what was going on?
Nobody has put this question to the previous City Managers George worked for, and perhaps now it’s too late. Perhaps now we’ll never know why not one of them raised the issue, though the question is perplexing. Why one earth didn’t even a single City Manager wonder what George was up to?
Given the appalling treatment of whistleblowers in Ireland right up to the present day, perhaps we can forgive those who worked under him, even though they all knew that the department they were working in was hopelessly compromised, but what of the others? Why was it that not one of them asked hard questions, given the fact that Dublin was being destroyed in front of their eyes?
Why did no politician ask what was going on?
Why did no architect publicly point the finger? No engineer?
Why did the RIAI and the IEI remain silent as George Redmond and his accomplices systematically destroyed the built heritage of Dublin for the sake of a few shillings?
Nobody liked to see an 80-year-old man being sent to jail in 2003 for accepting bribes. Nobody wants to punish the elderly because we’re hard-wired to feel protective towards anyone radiating kindly old grandad signals, and that’s why we didn’t feel too comfortable about George Redmond hitting the slammer for corruption, even if we were wondering why exactly he was arrested carrying £300,000 in a suitcase coming back through Dublin Airport after an Isle of Man bank refused to accept the cash.
Who knows? Maybe he just made wise investments with his old-age pension. Maybe he won it on a horse, like other prominent figures of our time.
No. George was a crook, and we all know it.
Imagine what Dublin would look like today if its planning policy had been controlled by someone with a sense of decency instead of a venal, dishonest miser.
And while we’re at it, let’s not overlook the activities of corrupt administrators closer to home, whose activities might well mirror those of George Redmond. Watch this space.