'We're not a charity but I regret how it was handled' - developer behind Tyrrelstown estate
Published 21/03/2016 | 12:27
The developer behind the Tyrrelstown estate in west Dublin insists he would be an "idiot" if he did not regret how tenants there have been told by his firm that they must either buy or leave their homes.
However, he added that "we are a business, not a charity".
Rick Larkin, a director of the Twinlite construction company that built the homes, tried to reassure tenants in a weekend interview that they "will not be put out on the streets".
However, while he said he sympathises with their plight, he also maintains that they must have known that at some point their homes would be sold.
His comments came as residents prepared to hold a demonstration tomorrow outside Leinster House.
"I'm sure, from their perspective, they don't think that is fair. I completely understand that and sympathise with them," Mr Larkin told the Sunday Business Post.
"But the fact is, they signed a one-year lease and renewed it every year. They have to in some part of their mind know that the day may come when their houses could be sold.
"At the end of the day, that property belongs to us and we can't be in a position that we're being told we have to hang on to it indefinitely just because it suits someone else.
"We're a business, not a charity," he added.
The controversy arose when tenants on the Cruise Park estate in Tyrrelstown began receiving letters telling them they would have to leave.
Families in more than 100 properties are facing having nowhere to live after receiving the letters.
The move came on the back of a deal in which Ulster Bank sold an €89m loan it had on its books to a Goldman Sachs vulture fund.
Despite Mr Larkin's attempts to reassure residents, they have formed an action group and will march on the Dail demanding further assurances and urging government action against such funds.
The Tyrrelstown Tenants Action Group was formed last week following a meeting of concerned residents.
Speaking after the meeting, local Sinn Fein councillor Paul Donnelly described the commitments being made as "not strong enough" and called on all citizens to support tomorrow's demonstration.
"The latest letter from Twinlite provides relief to some of the tenants," he said.
"The decision not to sell the 50 apartments and that the rest of the homes not issued with termination letters will now not have their leases terminated for at least 18 months has been welcomed.
"However, while I welcome those assurances, it is clear that the commitments are not strong enough to reassure those who got a termination of their tenancy that they won't end up in homeless accommodation.
"I have spoken to several of the tenants who have not yet received any termination of leases letters and they are very relieved that in the short term their homes will not be sold for a minimum of 18 months, but they are still anxious that at some stage they will be sold.
"I am calling on all citizens to please support our demonstration on Tuesday. Housing is a human right, and this should be acknowledged with immediate action."
It has also been reported that Twinlite approached Tuath Housing Association some weeks ago with a proposal to sell it up to 40 of the properties that are due to be sold.
Tuath has not yet made any offer on the homes, but confirmed it has begun to assess them for possible purchase.
Dozens of residents have so far received letters from Twinlite, which is owned by Mr Larkin and his brother, Michael, telling them they would have to vacate their homes once their leases run out. They also have the option to buy.
The Herald previously revealed how the Larkin family built a private airstrip on their land without permission. Authorities discovered the illegal construction too late to issue proceedings for the removal of the 700m airstrip and a hangar.
The runway was used for an emergency landing in February 2011, documents from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) have shown.
There were no injuries in the incident, which involved an instructor and trainee pilot getting into difficulty.