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Century Radio director to deny involvement with donation

By Frank Connolly

Two former directors of Century Radio, chairman Laurence Crowley and James Stafford, were informed in 1991 of fellow director Oliver Barry’s payment of £35,000 to Ray Burke in 1989.

But Stafford is expected to tell the Flood Tribunal that the money did not come from Century funds, and that neither Century nor its directors (with the exception of Oliver Barry) were involved in the payment to Burke.

The payment, which will be examined at public hearings of the tribunal when it resumes on July 18, was made before the June 1989 election. It has been described by Barry as a political donation to Burke, who held the communications portfolio in the then minority Fianna Fail government led by Charles Haughey.

It followed the successful efforts of Century Radio to have the cost of RTE transmission facilities reduced by more than £200,000, in a year when the minister capped RTE’s advertising revenue in a manner designed to assist its competitors.

Century Radio was awarded the first independent national radio licence earlier in 1989 by the Independent Radio and Television Commission, members of which are expected to give evidence during the forthcoming tribunal sittings.

Stafford is expected to use his appearance at the tribunal to make an unprecedented attack on RTE and its role in the collapse of Century Radio later in 1991. The Sunday Business Post has learned that Stafford has prepared a detailed statement setting out his role in the renegotiation of the transmission fees.

He is expected to claim that RTE sought £1.14 million in return for giving Century use of its nationwide transmission facilities.

Stafford and his fellow directors, on advice from the Independent Broadcasting Authority, believed the true cost should have been closer to £300,000.

Up to 30 witnesses, including Department of Communications officials and RTE personnel, have made statements and are expected to appear during the tribunal hearings, which will continue until the summer break at the end of July.

Former Century directors singer Chris de Burgh, broadcaster Terry Wogan and solicitor and Fine Gael fundraiser Enda Marren are expected to appear at the tribunal with their former colleagues Stafford, Crowley and Barry.

According to sources, Stafford made a donation to Fine Gael during 1989, although he has long been a supporter of Charles Haughey.

© Sunday Business Post