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Friday 24 March 2017

An outspoken developer who never courted popularity

Emmet Oliver

AS a former IRA hunger striker and ex-paramilitary prisoner, Tom McFeely has always been a different kind of developer.

Apart from his plush residence on Dublin's Ailesbury Road and a Bentley car, he shares very little in common with those who did well during the Celtic Tiger years from property investment.

In fact, the Derryman is scathing about those who earn a living like him from building apartments and office blocks, using bank finance.

"They are arrogant, egotistical and anaemic; I've far more respect for street sweepers," Mr McFeely said two years ago, in his only ever newspaper interview.

Mr McFeely, who runs his Coalport company with associate Larry O'Mahony, has never courted popularity and is a frequent visitor to the courts to settle disputes.

However, in recent years he has been on the receiving end of several judgments filed against him by creditors.

His Irish Nationwide loans are also believed to have gone into NAMA. This means he must present a convincing business case to the agency if he is to continue in his current role.

While some of these events would be traumatic for some, Mr McFeely suffered his greatest trauma during 53 days on hunger strike in the North's infamous Maze prison in the early 1980s.

While he survived, many of his comrades died and Mr McFeely subsequently arrived in Dublin with IR£240.

He took to working on building sites and eventually managed to buy some property. Within a few years he was a fully fledged property developer. While he is notoriously reclusive, he attracted attention as a developer due to his IRA past.

While he has owned some impressive assets during his time as a developer, he has fallen out with many people in the Dublin business scene, most spectacularly with fellow developer Noel Smyth, who took a high-profile action against Mr McFeely over a land deal at The Square in Tallaght.

Routine

But while legal tussles tend to be routine in property development, Mr McFeely's problems with the standard of construction at his developments have started over recent years to threaten his entire empire.

A key case occurred in 2009 when a Dublin woman was awarded more than €100,000 in damages at the High Court after she was unable to move into her new home because the builders failed to correct "serious structural defects".

Mr McFeely has found himself in court over similar issues ever since and his partner Mr O'Mahony has also suffered financial pressure, resulting in him applying for bankruptcy in the UK.

Financial details on Mr McFeely's operations are sketchy but as early as 2008 Coalport was losing €9m.

Despite this, his assets are extensive, with properties on Dublin's North King Street, in Phibsboro, the Tallaght Plaza Hotel and a holiday home in the Algarve.

Irish Independent

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