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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 16 September, 2019
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Column: I'd give my heart and soul to never have heard the words 'Priory Hall'

The residents evacuated from Priory Hall are the only people who have paid in any way for the problems uncovered in the buidling, writes Alison Doyle.

Image: Priory Hall Residents

PRIORY HALL.

Two little words I’d give my heart and soul to never have heard.

How I wish I’d never seen the advertisement for the development in the newspaper and found myself excitedly placing a holding deposit with my now husband along with many other people my age all hoping to get on to the property ladder. How I wish we had never been taken in by the glossy sales brochure promising a home “perfectly placed to suit our every need”. Even now when I look at it, the complete irony of how the different materials being used to build it would give residents a sense of pride in the look of their home is not lost on me.

Proud is something I never really felt living there. We tried to put a brave face on in the nearly five years we lived there but deep down we knew something was not right, though never could we have dreamed it was as dangerous as we have since discovered. With the constant leaks and problems we started to dread rain which in our climate meant we panicked quite a lot! We did the best we could turning our three bed duplex into our little corner of the world, spending most of our savings on floors, painting it and other items that mostly lie in storage now. We got married in 2009 and started our family, living there with our son for his first year until we were evacuated by court order in October 2011.

The only people who have paid in any way are the residents

Since the day we were evacuated from Priory Hall the only people who have paid in any way are the residents. Granted we are blessed: we didn’t pay the ultimate price with our lives while we lived there. Hearing how a fire could have spread through the development in minutes means we never would have gotten out as we lived on the third and fourth floors. It’s horrible to think that while you’re doing the best you can keeping your child safe you are actually putting him in huge danger because of the home you purchased in good faith.

We pay with our health, constantly stressed and worried, all the while trying to put a brave face on. We pay with our futures – as while this drags on we don’t have one, simple as that. We are stuck in limbo where normal life goes on around us, caught between Dublin City Council who are doing all they can to shirk their responsibilities and a government who are too reluctant to get involved due to the many other possible Priory Halls around the country.

I understand they are afraid to get involved as it sets a precedent but what the government fail to see is that there are very real people caught up in this who deserve to have their lives back. My son was one when he left, he still remembers living there, when we walk by, he points at the railings and says “we can’t live there”. I’m tired of listening to the government blame the previous administration for the light touch regulations which led to the disaster that is Priory Hall. The blame game is long over and it’s time for real solutions to be discussed, something to finally put an end to our nightmare.

How has nobody been hold accountable for this?

DCC went to the Supreme Court today to appeal the court order to pay the residents temporary accommodation and storage fees. Had they carried out the proper inspections nobody would ever have been allowed to move into Priory Hall so we wouldn’t all be in this mess now. It beggars belief that only a few months after the building site was closed down for Health and Safety breaches, DCC then purchased units in the development for social housing. How has not one person been held accountable for that decision? When the problems in the development came to light, DCC moved their own tenants out in December 2009 and left the other owner/occupiers there unaware of the seriousness of the issues for almost two years. Again, how has nobody been hold accountable for this?

The appeal has been adjourned until October 15th to allow the mediation process to continue. Whilst it is a small comfort that the court didn’t rule against the residents today, it means another five months in limbo. In October it will be two years since we were ordered out of our homes, as one of the legal counsel put it in court “almost an eviction as opposed to an evacuation”. We were supposed to leave for five weeks while repair works were carried out. The building has stood there rotting ever since and is now in a worse state than ever.

I’m tired of trying to stay positive and believing that things have to eventually turn in our favour. It’s the little things that sometimes upset me the most. I’ve put my son’s name down for a local school in the hope that the one we’ve chosen is the one we will live near when he goes in two years. Something that should be exciting is another stressful thing, as while this drags on we have no idea where we will be from month to month. We had our home in Priory Hall gorgeously decorated with pictures of family, friends and our lives together. We have not put one picture on a wall in our temporary accommodation, after the devastation of packing your whole life up in 48 hours I can’t allow myself to put any roots down here as we have no idea when we will have to leave.

The bank is still adding interest to our mortgage

It’s not a life, it’s an existence. I know there are people going through so much worse in their lives but it’s still really unfair that all the residents of Priory Hall did was purchase homes in good faith and yet we continue to be the only ones paying for this mess. Our mortgage is on moratorium with our bank but interest is still being added, over €20,000 in 18 months. Very soon it will be impossible to ever repay this debt. Priory Hall represents everything that was wrong with the boom, homes thrown up by greedy and corrupt builders who were allowed get away with it by local authorities who never bothered carrying out inspections, even on sites where there were known to be problems.

Priory Hall. Two little words that will continue to rule and ruin our lives until a proper solution is put in place for the residents.

This article was reproduced with the permission of Support The Priory Hall Residents

Priory Hall: “They’ve already tried to put us on the streets once, they can’t try it again”

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About the author:

Alison Doyle

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