WHISTLEBLOWER Tom Gilmartin died without the apology he was owed by the Irish State, according to his son.
Speaking at the funeral of his father, who built his career in Luton and whose name is synonymous with Ireland’s so-called payment to politicians tribunals, Thomas Jr said his father never wavered from telling the truth “even when subjected to extraordinary pressure.”
Businessman Gilmartin famously spoke out about the corruption he encountered at the highest levels of public and business life after he returned to Ireland from Britain.
However, his testimony and resolve to tell the truth brought great personal consequences before his reputation was eventually restored.
“He would never perjure himself even when it was disadvantageous for him to tell the truth such was his honestly and his religious faith,” said his son. “It is a source of great sadness to us, his family, that dad was never truly given the credit he deserved for what he did or the apology he was owed for what was done to him. He deserved better.”
A native of Lislary, Co Sligo, Tom Gilmartin left Sligo for Britain in 1957.
He went on to build a successful engineering company in Luton that made sophisticated mechanical handling engineering systems for the nearby car makers, Vauxhall and other manufacturers.
When the industry collapsed in the early ‘80s, he moved into property development, identifying sites and investors for projects in Milton Keynes and other towns.
After encountering homeless Irish fleeing from the last great recession in the 80s, he decided to try and create some jobs and wealth in his home country and returned to live in Ireland.
His name will forever be linked to a shopping centre, originally planned for land he acquired at Quarryvale, west Dublin, which subsequently became the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, after Mr Gilmartin was squeezed out of the project.
Allegations of payments to Fianna Fáil politicians and bribery demands from others led to him becoming a key witness at the Mahon Tribunal.
Having later lived in Cork with his family, he died peacefully at Cork University Hospital last week.
“It is sometimes an exaggeration to say that we will not see someone’s like again. But in my father’s case it is true. He was a one-off,” Thomas Jr said.