Kildare councillor Mark Dalton pleads guilty to over €200,000 fraud

Naas District Court heard the money had gone "to the bookies"

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Kildare councillor Mark Dalton pleads guilty to over €200,000 fraud

Kildare Cllr Mark Dalton pictured during the 2014 Kildare local election count at Punchestown. Picture: Tony Keane/Leinster Leader

A Kildare County Councillor has pleaded guilty to fraud in taking money from a Kildare housing association, amounting to over €200,000.

Naas District Court was today told that he was addicted to gambling, and the judge commented that the money had gone “to the bookies”.

Cllr Mark Dalton (51) of 53 Whitecastle Lawns, Athy, appeared before Naas District Court today, Thursday, April 5.

He was charged with 28 separate charges of taking the money from Cill Urnai Housing Association Limited on dates from 2009 to 2014. Half the charges were brought under Section 25 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Act 2001 and the other half under Section 4 of the same Act.

Garda John Butler told the court that he arrested Mr Dalton at 9.20 am this morning. When the charges were put to him, Mr Dalton replied: “I wish to plead guilty to all charges and cooperate fully as I have done from the commencement of the process.”

Garda Butler said the housing association had a maintenance contract with a third party, and Mr Dalton, who was working for the association, was responsible for paying the third party.

Mr Dalton’s solicitor, Frank Taaffe, said his client was a voluntary organiser with the housing association.

Garda Butler said it was alleged that Mr Dalton wrote cheques from the housing association account to himself and forged a third party signature.

One of the charges, for example, involved the transfer of €3,550 into Mr Dalton’s account on April 8, 2010.

Judge Desmond Zaidan was told the Cill Urnai Housing Association was partly State funded and provided social housing for those in need.

Mr Taaffe said that Mr Dalton had cooperated in the investigation and took full responsibility.

The case is now being sent forward to the sitting of Naas Circuit Court, starting on June 19, following the guilty plea.

Mr Taaffe sought free legal aid, including a junior and a senior counsel, on the basis that a lot of work has been done by two counsel up to this.

Mr Taaffe said there were legal issues and some were complex. Judge Zaidan granted free legal aid. His client, he said, was a director of the company.  Judge Zaidan said this was “a serious breach of trust.”

He asked why Mr Dalton had done this. Garda Butler said Mr Dalton was addicted to gambling. The judge said that the money had been “all wasted on gambling to the bookies”.

He said the offences had taken place over four to five years. The court was told that Mr Dalton has a family and children.

Mr Dalton is a serving member of Kildare County Council, elected for the Athy Municipal District. He resigned from the Fianna Fáil party in October 2014 after financial irregularities first came to light. He is a former assistant to Ceann Comhairle,  Sean Ó Fearghail, the Fianna Fáil deputy for Kildare South.