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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 20 August, 2014

Priory Hall residents: Ours will just be the first case of many

Evacuated residents fear that Dublin City Council will also win their challenge not to pay for their temporary housing costs from 3 February.

Priory Hall apartment complex - some of the damp and rain leaks on the walls are visible from a distance
Priory Hall apartment complex - some of the damp and rain leaks on the walls are visible from a distance
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE RESIDENTS OF Priory Hall who had to be evacuated from their homes because of serious safety issues with their apartment development have warned that other cases of substandard property will emerge.

Graham Usher, spokesperson for Priory Hall Residents Committee, told TheJournal.ie that Priory Hall “will be the first of these kind of cases”. He said that the situation faced by residents was grim and that they viewed it as “a complete failure on the part of the State and the local authority”.

Dublin City Council is to cover the cost of temporary housing until 3 February for Priory Hall residents who were forced out of their fire-hazard homes. The DCC has a legal appeal being heard in the Supreme Court on 19 January which will rule on whether the council is responsible for temporary housing costs after this date. Usher said that the residents feared that the council will win this appeal:

We have been told to expect the worst from this appeal and if that is the case, we will be homeless.

The committee has this week been emailing all ministers in the Cabinet in a bid to secure an intervention in their case. “There has been absolutely no response and I think the Government will avoid the issue,” said Usher. He said:

I think that this will turn into a much bigger issues and that Priory Hall will only be the first of many developments that will be found to have had construction problems.

Some of the residents have penned their individual stories and addressed them to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan. One email was also addressed to all the ministers in the current Fine Gael-Labour government.

Graham Usher said that the committee will be asking new housing junior minister Roisin Shortall for a meeting to look at the housing issues. He said:

We’ve also sent an email to Minister Hogan suggesting solutions to the situation. We have had no suggestions from the Department of the Environment so we are trying to be proactive in making suggestions other than putting us out of our homes.

Some of the different solutions outlined by the Priory Hall Resident Committee include:

  • “Priory Hall needs to be treated the same as a natural disaster” and compensation put in place for residents who the committee claims have suffered because of “a diaster in which the government and the local authority bear a large share of responsibility through ineffective legislation and lax enforcement”
  • While restructuring works are in place on Priory Hall, a reputable builder, architect and engineer should oversee the project
  • The name Priory Hall should be removed from the property so that if residents return to their homes, they will not have a stigma attached
  • Negotiations should be carried out with NAMA to give residents a roof over their heads in unoccupied buildings while works are being carried out on Priory Hall
  • The DCC could negotiate with the banks on loan write-offs for residents and then create an alternative – possibly community – use of Priory Hall as its location is close to a DART station, the coastline, the airport and the city

The only other solution, says the committee, is that the residents hand back their keys to the banks and be ruined financially as well as being dragged through the courts. “The only winners in this scenario are the legal professionals,” writes the committee.

The developer who built Priory Hall, Tom McFeely, is appealing a three-month prison sentence and a €1m fine for failing to make the apartments safe to live in. The residents were evacuated from them by court order on 17 October after the apartments were branded an immediate fire hazard.

Read: Priory Hall residents ask Taoiseach to intervene>

Read: Residents tell McFeely: ‘We don’t wish you a Happy New Year’>

In pictures: Six weeks on, Priory Hall is a ghost town>

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