President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the “tenacity, determination and dignity” of former residents of the condemned Priory Hall today.
The families were at the mercy of uncontrolled property speculation with “light or no regulation” during the boom, the president said.
During a reception in their honour at Aras an Uachtarain today, the president said “light or no regulation” during Ireland’s economic boom failed citizens like the Priory Hall residents.
Addressing the 150 former residents of the condemned apartment complex in Donaghmede, north Dublin, the president said they were failed by those “in whom trust was placed”.
“In failing to control speculation, by light or no regulation, our citizens were failed by those in whom trust was placed in their duty of care towards all of our citizens,” President Higgins said.
He spoke of “the prevailing ethos of the property boom, dominated by an aggressive individualism and an almost reverential approach to speculative wealth, to consumption for it’s own sake”.
He said this was the anti-thesis “of the best values of a republic” and “something that must not be allowed to re-emerge.”
The Priory Hall residents were evicted from their firetrap homes by Dublin City Council four years ago.
Priory Hall was built by bankrupt developer and former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeeley.
He paid tribute to the “tenacity, determination and dignity” of the Priory Hall residents who now face their third Christmas without a home of their own after they forced to leave the 187-unit complex due to a raft of safety infractions at the site.
While the residents have accepted a new mortgage deal that will see their mortgage debts written off, the residents’ spokesman Graham Usher said it will be well into the New Year before residents will finally be able to buy new homes and get on with their lives.
But he said they are all relieved that their three-year nightmare is almost at an end after Taoiseach Enda Kenny intervened and personally pledged to sort out their difficulties.
However the intervention came too late for resident Fiachra Daly who lived at the complex with his partner Stephanie Meehan and their young children Oisin and Cerys before taking his own life earlier this year which was related to the huge financial stress faced by all the residents.
President Higgins paid tribute to Ms Meehan yesterday, noting her “bravery and tenacity at a time of enormous personal tragedy moved and impressed a nation.”
Noting how he understands the “righteous anger” of the residents, he added that they, like Nelson Mandela, were able to “move beyond anger” and work in solidarity with one another to further their goals of “just recompense.”