TONY Gaughan first came to public attention in 2001 when he was spotted accompanyingBeverley Flynn during her libel case against RTE.
But he was a frequent visitor to Doohoma, the remote north Mayo village where he grew up.
Located more than 50 miles from Castlebar, it has always suffered from massive emigration due to the lack of employment.
A famous RTE documentary in 1972 showed how the men in the village spent nine months of the year labouring on farms and building sites in England to send money home to their families.
And Mr Gaughan followed this path, travelling to England as a young man to work in the construction industry there.
But while other emigrants suffered from the burden of exile or alcoholism, he prospered and returned to Mayo a wealthy man.
He set up his own building company, TJ Gaughan Construction, in 1990.
According to the most recent accounts filed by the company, Mr Gaughan and his two fellow directors shared a salary of €250,000 in 2005.
They also benefited from a €3.9m payment into their pension scheme, compared to just €200,000 in 2004. The company has stocks of €8.2m.
At some point, Mr Gaughan decided to build a holiday home in his native village but he wouldhave been well aware of the problems this presented.
Although the planning climate was much looser in Mayo in 1997, it would still have been extremely difficult to secure a site in one of the most scenic parts of the village.
But there was a desirable site available, just 200 metres from the local beach, and with spectacular views of Tullaghan Bay and Achill Island.
It was owned by a local small farmer, John Cooney.
According to planning files provided by Mayo County Council to the Irish Independent , his daughter Breege applied for planning permission to build on the one hectare site in May 1997.
On the face of it, it seemed a curious decision.
Ms Cooney had a job in the village's only factory, the now closed Eagle Isle Seafoods, but as someone living in a council house, it would presumably have been difficult for her to raise the finance for a large house on the site.
But her connection to the land meant that her planning application was almost guaranteed to succeed.
Under the section which required Ms Cooney to state her interest in the site, it said: "owner is applicant's father".
The application included detailed architect's drawings of the proposed 120 square metre house, with four bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room.
There was provision for a winding driveway up to the house and a new entrance to the public road via "a 3.6m wide gate".
The planners were also supplied with a copy of a small advertisement in the 'Western People' newspaper in May 1997 to show that requirement to notify the public had been complied with.
The ad was signed "B Cooney".
The planning application was duly granted in September, 1997.
According to Mr Gaughan's account of events, he had "no hand, act or part" in Ms Cooney's planning application and wasn't even aware it was being made.
However, according to documents from the Land Registry, he was named as the "full owner" of the Doohoma site on December 9, 1997 - just four months after planning permission had been granted. He subsequently obtained a land registration certificate on July 6, 1998.
Around the same time, there was a dramatic improvement in the Cooney family's housing status. John Cooney and his family had been living in a run-down council house in the village.
But in 1998, Mayo County Council built a new house for the family on the same site.
Ms Cooney's father, John, died in 2004, but she is still living in the family's council house.
Her mother Kate is listed by Mayo County Council as the main tenant.
The village has a charming, old-fashioned shop which doubles as a post office and a travelling grocer who calls to houses every Friday in his lorry.
Meanwhile, Mr Gaughan went on to build a holiday home on the coastal site, with a garage and a conservatory. It is located on the hillside overlooking the bay, with a curved tarmac driveway leading down to a set of locked black gates with gold ornamental decorations.
It is just 200 metres away from a sandy beach. There is no post box or name plate.
According to the Land Registry, the site was once part of 107 hectares of commonage land, which was subsequently divided into 50 sections.
All of the owners have been trying for the past six years to get a vesting order from theDepartment of Agriculture which would give them full legal title to their lands.
Mayo County Council has conceded it is "highly unlikely" that Mr Gaughan would now be permitted to build a holiday home in the area using planning permission granted to another person.
Under the 2005 sustainable housing guidelines, householders generally have to declare that they intend to use their rural one-off house themselves and cannot sell it for at least seven years.
But there was no "owner occupancy clause" inserted in Ms Cooney's 1997 planning permission - meaning that her father was entitled to sell the land to Mr Gaughan for building.
Mr Gaughan is now building another home in Doohoma on the site of his grandfather's former house.
He said it was for a cousin of his who is living in England.
It is not yet finished, so there are heaps of sand, timber and concrete blocks.
There's a site office in a port-a-cabin and the window frames are covered by blue plastic sheeting.
There is also a telescopic loader with a "T Gaughan Westport Road Castlebar" sticker on it.
He and his long-term partner Beverley Flynn are well known in the area due to their frequent stays in the holiday house.
Indeed, her popularity in the area was reflected in the fact that she got 50pc of the vote (117 ballots out of 234) in Doohoma in the general election.
Mr Gaughan did his bit for her election victory, canvassing personally for her in the Erris peninsula.
He also provided the prime Castlebar town site for the 'Flynn Headquarters', which had been previously occupied by a fruit and vegetable shop. When she took the final seat in the Mayo constituency, Ms Flynn personally thanked him in her victory speech.
However, she will not welcome the publicity about her holiday home as she attempts to navigate yet another obstacle in her stormy political career.
Ms Flynn is depending on a verbal assurance from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that she will be re-admitted to Fianna Fail and appointed as a junior minister - if she can successfully deal with the bankruptcy proceedings being brought by RTE.
She did not return a call seeking comment.
There has been speculation that Mr Gaughan may step in as a "white knight" to save her but so far he has not done so.
If the couple married, he would avoid the prohibitive gift tax rate of 20pc (which could add another €600,000 onto the bill), but he has not done that so far, either.
1. Martin Cullen
No credibility, after Farmleigh, e-voting and Monica Leech.
2. No Costings
Transport 21 contains no breakdown of costs for the individual projects. They announced that there will be €34 billion allocated, with €8 billion of this coming from Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and €2 billion of this from toll based investment.
3. Optimistic Estimates
Doubt has been cast on Transport 21's estimation that €2 billion will come from toll road based investment. The NRA was quoted as saying that it posed "a not insurmountable challenge". But it is estimated that tolls could only raise only €1.34 billion, giving doubt that €2 billion could be met.
4. Not enough buses
At the Transport 21 announcement, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen promised 20 extra buses for Dublin bus immediately. But Dublin needs at least 180 – primarily to provide a frequent service on Quality Bus Corridors (QBCs), such as those installed recently on Merrion Road and Fonthill Road. Although 180 additional buses were promised under the current National Development Plan, this investment has been put on hold by the Government since 2002 until it secures agreement from Dublin Bus and its trade unions on the privatisation of new services.
5. Not enough QBCs
The Midterm Evaluation of the National Development Plan by INDECON highlighted that "buses using segregated lanes appear to be a very effective mode at a low cost". They also said there had been an impressive increase in the number of passengers using the QBCs. They said they are "the most cost effective way of improving public transport in the short-run." In relation to rail they said: "Overall, we believe that there may be justification for pursuing future large-scale rail projects but they must be based on careful consideration of the likely costs and benefits and in particular the extent to which higher densities are being delivered on the proposed routes." Transport 21 announced that the Government will double the Quality Bus Corridors in Dublin (QBCs). At the moment there are 12 QBCs in the Dublin region. So that means 12 more corridors over 10 years.
6. Repetition of previous promises unconvincing
The extension to the Luas line and the establishment of a metro have been announced in the past by Government. But before, these projects were on a grander scale. In 1999 Mary O'Rourke, then Minister for Transport, said a public consultation on a Luas line from Broadstone to Ballymun and the airport had begun. In November of that year she announced a £500 million contingency provision for an underground element of Luas.
In 2002 the Dublin Transportation Office announced in its 'Platform for Change' the Luas would be extended to the Docklands. It also announced that there would be a new LUAS line from Ballymun to Dundrum; and from Lucan to the city centre.
It announced a Metro from Swords to Bray; a line from Tallaght to the city centre; and an orbital line around Tallaght, Clondalkin and Finglas.
What we are getting in Transport 21 is an extension on the Luas line from Connolly to the Docklands; an extension from Tallaght to Citywest; an extension from Sandyford to Bray; the joining of the two LUAS lines in the city centre; and a new line from Lucan to the city. In terms of metro lines there are two – one from Swords to St Stephen's Green and an orbital line serving Tallaght, Clondalkin, Liffey, Blanchardstown.
7. Luas overcrowding
The RPA (Rail Procurement Agency) has said that an additional eight million passengers a year would be accommodated on the Luas with the new lines and extensions. But there is already overcrowding on the existing lines, with customers regularly complaining that they cannot board the trams during rush hour. In particular customers at Windy Arbour say they cannot board. So the additional passengers that would be travelling on to Cherrywood and Bray with the proposed extension will put further pressure on Luas. The RPA said that increasing the frequency of the trams may be an option. The capacity of Luas trams are limited because of the current length of the platforms.
8. Public Private Partnerships unproven
Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are touted in Transport 21 as the source of €8 billion in funding, including €2 billion from toll-roads. But can the private sector be relied upon to invest in transport on this scale, and is the PPP model a viable one? As Edgar Morgenroth of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) puts it, "there isn't a lot of evidence at this point, and the little evidence we have is not good". The only research into PPPs undertaken in Ireland was a study of school-building projects by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found that the building of five schools using public-private partnerships would cost eight to 13 per cent more than building them conventionally.
9. The metro to the airport
According to Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's experience at other airports, particularly in the UK, has been that less than 25 per cent of passengers travelling to or from an airport use direct rail links. The majority of passengers using an airport travel to that airport either to or from their homes rather than from the centre of the city and therefore use cars or more flexible bus services. With competition between airports and low-cost carriers opening up more routes across Europe, air travel is increasingly to and from smaller airports which are not served by rail links.
10. Sewage pipe on parts of Western rail corridor may have to be moved
According to the Platform 11 Group (representing the Irish National Rail Users Organisation) part of the Dunshaughlin sewage pipe runs parallel and underneath the old Navan rail line that will be the re-established Western Rail Corridor. This will create added cost and delay to a line that is scheduled to open in ten years. The sewage pipe runs adjacent or underneath 1.5 kilometres of the track.
Meath County Council says that the pipe has been constructed mainly on the side of the railway alignment, but when asked for specific distances they did not provide them. They said that around the Dunsany Bridge the pipe is in the middle of the alignment. Depending on what depth the pipe is at, this would have to be moved to allow for the rail line. Meath County Council did not answer a question from Village as to its depth under the track.
Platform 11 says Meath County Council plans show nine manhole covers in the rail alignment, four directly in the middle. These will have to be moved in accordance with Iarnród Éireann guidelines, which state: "Where sewers are buried at a substantial distance below the trackbed they will not be relocated, however manhole access will need to be relocated away from the trackbed." The track will be electrified as well which would mean lowering the track under the Dunsany Bridge.
Meath County Council did not answer questions on the amount of manholes in the track's vicinity.
They did say: "The present construction of the sewer does not preclude the railway from possible reopening in the future." The cost of the 16km pipeline was €2.5 million.
11. Indirect journeys
The Metro West is being built to link areas orbitally around the city, but also to link up these areas with the Tallaght Luas. However, the plan to link these areas to the city centre via the Tallaght Luas does not seem to make sense. Liffey Valley is 3.7 miles from the city centre by road, and without heavy traffic the journey time by car would be 15-20 minutes. If a passenger was going to travel by rail under the Transport 21 plan the passenger would have to travel to Tallaght by metro first ( a road distance of 8.5 miles) and then take the Luas to the city centre (approx journey time 48 mins). To get from Blanchardstown and Clondalkin to the city centre a passenger would have to travel to the Tallaght Luas by metro first, and then journey for 48 minutes to the city centre.
In his announcement on 1 November Martin Cullen in particular highlighted that under Transport 21 a passenger will be able to travel from Loughlinstown (Cherrywood) to Dun Laoghaire by rail. In this scenario the passenger would take the Luas to Bray and then the Dart to Dun Laoghaire. However at the moment there is a bus route than can take the passenger directly from Louglinstown/Cherrywood to Dun Laoghaire in 20 minutes. It seems it would make more sense to invest in the bus network in both these areas.
12. Underground rail twice the cost of surface, and attracts less passengers
In 2000, the Dublin LRT (light rail) study looked into the comparative analysis of surface and underground options for a rail link. The report said that in peak hour in 2006 the surface option would be expected to attract 1,000 more users than the underground option. In off peak periods the surface option would attract nearly 50 per cent more. It also found that both options would increase the number of passengers travelling by rail by four per cent and reduce those using cars by one per cent. It also said that the capital cost of an underground option would be roughly twice that of the surface one – £500 million compared with £263 million.
13. Not as many Intercity trains as you thought
In Transport 21 they announced additional trains on existing routes. But in some cases this does not amount to much of an increase. For instance on the Dublin-Galway line it promised a train every hour at peak, and a train every two hours off peak. This means three more trains a day, based on the existing timetable. It announced trains every two hours on the Dublin-Tralee line. This means an additional one to two trains, based on the current timetable. (Some of the existing trains on the Tralee line are not direct, but Transport 21 doesn't clarify if it is proposing direct trains every two hours.) On the Dublin-Limerick line it promised trains every hour – this will mean five additional trains. On the Dublin-Waterford line it committed to trains every two hours from Dublin. Between the hours of 7.30am to 19.30 this would mean seven trains. At the moment there are seven trains.
14. Fails to tackle problem of rail access to Midlands
The plan fails to tackle the problem of rail access to the proposed midlands gateway, as defined in the National Spatial Strategy. This gateway is made up of Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar, all located on railway lines, but to get from Athlone to Mullingar by train the passenger must go via Dublin. The plan also fails to address the problem of rail access to Shannon airport which lies less than ten miles off the Ennis to Limerick line. Also there are complaints that the Atlantic highway is only going to be a dual carriageway and in part of it, it will be just a 2+1 system.
15. Confusion over transport agency
Martin Cullen seems to envisage the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) as something quite radical, that would have power over the other transport authorities like the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) and Dublin Bus. But its role has not been clearly defined. In a Dáil question last week the Taoiseach indicated a more limited role for it. "The Department will establish a monitoring group under its chairmanship for the purpose of overseeing the implementation of what is a very elaborate plan to bring the infrastructure of this country up to scale." But the Department of Transport insists the new agency will have to have wide-ranging statutory powers. This could take a long time to create and the existing powers enjoyed by other agencies would have to be withdrawn.
16. Ten years to build the Western Rail Corridor
It took less than three years to build the 26-mile Navan line using picks and shovels in the 19th Century. Work began in October 1859 and was completed by August 1862. But Transport 21 says that that it will take ten years to reopen the whole Western rail line. Locals in Meath are questioning why the Navan section cannot be opened sooner.
17. Upgrade of the M50 will still result in traffic jams
As part of Transport 21 they will complete the upgrade of the M50 route. This means widening 32 kilometre of the motorway from four to six lanes and upgrading ten interchanges. The National Roads Authority (NRA) say that the upgrade will bring a 19 per cent improvement in traffic flow by 2008, but the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the upgrade says that the M50 will remain congested even after the upgrade. This said that the level of traffic will need to be controlled. The EIS predicts that traffic levels on the M50 will soar following its upgrade from around 80,000 vehicles a day at present to between 194,100 and 203,700 a day on different sections of the route – in both cases above the congestion threshold. In order to deter motorists the NRA wants to implement a free flowing toll facility, but there is no decision as of yet.
18. No school transport
As anybody commuting by road during school holidays knows, a large portion of rush-hour traffic consists of school runs. With the school transport fleet already straining following the removal of the "3 for 2" concession allowing three students to sit across two seats, and the main obstacle to the fitting of seat belts on school buses being cost, school transport is already in need of serious investment. Yet there is nothing about this in Transport 21. Alongside an enhanced school transport system, Green TD Eamon Ryan suggests that a priority should be to make sure that every school in the country is safe to walk and cycle to.
19. Rail projects haven't got the go ahead yet.
There will have to be public inquiries into the metro lines and the Luas extensions, as well as the national rail projects before they get the go ahead. This is required under part three of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) 2001 Act. Environmental Impact Assessments will also be mandatory. There are no timescales for these inquiries as this is decided by the individual inspectors who oversee the inquires. This will mean delay for the projects and the possibility that they won't go ahead as planned. The railway order for the Luas extension has been received by the Minister for Transport and according to the Department of Transport "he will appoint an inspector to oversee the public inquiry into this extension shortly."
20. Problems building underground
There were reservations in the past in building underground in Dublin. Some of the arguments were that the ground was too wet to build in, and would not be able to support itself. The government now argue that the Port Tunnel has shown that we can build underground in Dublin. But there were many residents who claimed of cracks and disturbance in their houses and the Government is going to have to pay out millions in compensation to them.
Another problem is that building underground can be very disruptive to the local residents. In other cities, like Madrid, they brought in 24/7 drilling for a few days in each area so the disruption was minimal. In order for 24/7 drilling to be brought in there would have to be statutory changes. In the past the infrastructure bill offered this, but it was withdrawn in December 2004 for a complete overhaul.
21. Problems with Metro cost and capacity
Platform 21 conducted a study of the metro plan as proposed by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) in their "Platform for Change". There were three metro lines – a Metro from Swords to Bray; a line from Tallaght to city centre; and an orbital line around Tallaght, Clondalkin and Finglas. Transport 21 has offered less metro than this in the current plans.
The Platform 11 report was critical of the RPA's construction cost of €1.72 billion. They set the real cost at €5 billion. They recommended Iarnród Éireann's rail plan for Dublin (an electrified system), which would give ten times the capacity of the proposed metro. They said that a 40 metre Luas can carry 292 people; where as an eight coach Dart can carry 1,400 passengers.
The concluded: "Despite they hype surrounding the Dublin Metro project upon a more in depth investigation it is rather disappointing. Capacity and integration all fall well short of what are needed."
(This is a reprint of an article on the "Village magazine" web site.)
METRO West was "launched" in November 2006 with the help of five ministers: Martin Cullen, Mary Harney, Brian Lenihan and his brother Conor, and Noel Ahern. Mr Noel Ahern is the brother of the Taoiseach, the most indefatigable launcher of all ,as befits the leader of a government that would launch anything from the Titanic to a rowing boat.
Yesterday's Famous Five, however, should have paused a moment to ask themselves whether the show that took them away from their desks justified the word "launch".
Metro West was launched before, in the sense that it was announced just over a year ago. Not much has changed since then. The announcement of a public consultation will not engender any great excitement. Nor will the target date for completion, 2014, at least three general elections away.
And there's the rub. The project may be completed in 2014, or some other year, or not at all, but the next election has to be fought and won in Dublin. That calls, not for achievement or even exertion but for the appearance of activity.
This will not be the last launch, or relaunch, before the election. Voters can do little about the repeated trumpet calls except to ignore them to the best of their ability.
Meanwhile, though, someone should remind Mr Cullen that the lack of orbital public transport in Dublin has been a problem for at least half a century. And Metro West will not cure it.
The usual Ballybrit Brigade/ Fianna Fail associated property developers and party donors are set for windfalls under the Railway Procurement Agency’s proposed routes for Metro West in Dublin.
Beef fraud baron, "Reach for your Lawyer" Larry Goodman owns land in Ballymun, which was previously used for meat processing and would be suitable for development if Metro West was built.
Michael Bailey of crooked property firm Bovale has large areas of land around the Ashbourne Road and Ken Rohan, an industrial development specialist, also has significant land holdings in the area.
Two routes through Blanchardstown have been proposed by the RPA.
Michael Cotter’s Park Developments, Pat Doherty’s Harcourt Developments and property developer Bernard McNamara all own land on or near one of the proposed routes.
Metro West will stop at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, which will benefit Stephen Vernon’s Green Property. The company is already planning to increase the retail space at the centre by 66 per cent to 185,000 square metres, and has plans to develop a four-star hotel, offices and houses.
The route will also go near Balgaddy, where Cork developer Owen O’Callaghan,who never knew Frank Dunlop was distributing bribes on his behalf, and apartment builder Liam Carroll, Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan of Treasury Holdings, and Paddy Kelly of Kelland Homes will have been tipped off well in advance, of future developments in and around Dublin,over a few pints at the Galway races, and have substantial property interests in the right place.
The Balgaddy land is already designated a special development zone, and up to 8,000 homes are expected to be built there.
Developer David Agar also owns about 100 acres in the Balgaddy area. If the proposed route through Grange Castle in Dublin is chosen, South Dublin County Council would benefit, as it has large land holdings there.
The final route will be a boon for landowners, as local authorities will allow significantly higher density development on sites near public transport links.
For example, in Sandyford in south Dublin, the local authority now allows about 150 apartments an acre, because of the presence of the Luas line.
On the Naas Road, planners are considering increasing the number of apartments allowed per acre from 30 to 120
Despite record investment in new trains and the upgrading of track, journey times on some of the principal routes are actually slower than they were 20 or 30 years ago.
This is largely because the volume of train services in the greater Dublin region is causing congestion. In effect, trains are queuing to get in and out of the city in certain areas.
However, two major infrastructural projects are expected to ease congestion - and improve speeds - in the next few years.
The Kildare Route Project will see an eight-mile section of track southwest of Heuston being doubled from two to four lines. This will enable fast inter-city trains to pass out slower commuter trains that stop at many stations.
A new signalling system in the Dublin Connolly area - plus the opening of the new Docklands station in March - will allow more train paths on routes radiating out to Maynooth/Sligo, Belfast, Rosslare and on Dart services.
According to the new timetable, the fastest train on the Dublin-Cork route will now take two hours 25 minutes - the same as 20 years ago.
The fastest service between Dublin and Tralee will now take three hours 57 minutes.
Back in 1987 (when Iarnród Éireann was formed) the early morning train from Kerry to the capital completed the journey in three hours 35 minutes.
The bulk of the trains from Belfast to Dublin are timetabled to take two hours 10 minutes, only five minutes less than times of almost 30 years ago.
Most trains on the DublinLimerick route are timetabled to take two hours 20 minutes, but 20 years ago the fastest train was 10 minutes quicker.
Times on the Dublin-Sligo line - one of the most criticised in the past when it had numerous speed restrictions be- fore the laying of new track - are still virtually the same as they were 20 years ago. !