OCTOBER 2011 STARTED off as such a happy time for myself and my family. Our little man Sean turned one on the 10th and had just started walking, so we were in the process of child-proofing our duplex apartment. To our horror we discovered within a week that our home was in no way fire-proof …
So we were given 48 hours notice to pack up and evacuate.
I will never forget the sense of panic as we realised we had been living in a ticking time-bomb for over four years. Living on the third and fourth floors we would never have gotten out had there been a fire. Having to decide what parts of Sean’s first year were not important enough to keep while we packed all of our belongings up quickly was heart-breaking.
We stayed with family at first, but as the weeks went on and we received the 16 page document from DCC detailing that practically every single fixture and fitting in Priory Hall was either unsafe or badly constructed, the realisation that this was not going to be fixed in five weeks hit home. Whilst being relieved to be out from such a dangerous building at the same time we were still sad and missed our home. We had spent a lot of time and money making it into our little haven. What I think most people forget is, we were happy while we lived there and still have many happy memories – be it parties before Sean came along or time spent with family and friends.
Life for the last year has been surreal. We tend to live from court date to court date, bank letter to bank letter. Our mortgage is on moratorium as we are paying rent ourselves, so even though it’s a small relief to have this in place, capital interest is being added the whole time. Our mortgage now is close to €400 more than the day we left Priory Hall, if the interest keeps accumulating in this way we could never afford it if the bank won’t extend our moratorium past the present agreement. They have never given more than three months at a time, this time it’s two months. It’s amazing how quickly the time comes around again, like one big recurring nightmare.
We have written letter after letter to TDs and An Taoiseach, attended the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, protested outside Dáil Eireann every Tuesday from last October until the beginning of the resolution process, held protests and candlelight vigils, doorstepped the Taoiseach while he visited a business not five minutes from Priory Hall… and still we are in limbo.
People not connected to the situation are incredulous that we are still out of our homes a year on with not one brick touched to remedy them since last November. Had I been told last October we would still be in this position I would never have believed it.
And yet life goes on around us. We’ve had friends get engaged, others get married and have babies, normal things for people of our age to do. Meanwhile we are still in this little bubble of uncertainty.
I’ve tried not to let Priory Hall become who I am but it’s very hard to stay positive all the time. The worry is always there, will this be the month the bank says they want their mortgage back for something completely worthless? How much longer will this drag on for? How has not one person been held accountable for the danger we were allowed live in for over four years? The unfairness of the situation hits home every time I drive by the security gates at Priory Hall.
All we were trying to do was start our lives together by buying our first home. Instead this home has put our lives on hold for a year, and will continue to do so until a solution is put in place.
Alison Doyle is a former resident of the Priory Hall development in Donaghmede, Dublin. This Saturday, the residents will mark one year since their evacuation with a protest march beginning at the Donaghmede shopping centre at 2pm. For more information, visit their Facebook page or follow on Twitter at @prioryhall.