President honours 'tenacity' of Priory Hall residents
Published 14/12/2013 | 02:30
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has paid special tribute to the "tenacity, determination and dignity" of the Priory Hall residents who now face their third Christmas without a home.
Former residents of the north Dublin complex said it was a "bittersweet" day as they were invited to a reception in their honour at Aras an Uachtarain.
The 150 homeowners were evicted from their firetrap homes by Dublin City Council four years ago, built by bankrupt developer and former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely.
Just two months ago, residents were finally offered a new mortgage deal -- but it was too late for campaigner and resident Fiachra Daly, who tragically took his own life as the financial stress became too much.
Fiachra's partner Stephanie Meehan and their young children Oisin (8) and Cerys (2) were at the Aras yesterday, and the President paid tribute to the young mum.
He said Stephanie's "bravery and tenacity at a time of enormous personal tragedy moved and impressed a nation".
Noting how he understood 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". Although residents have accepted the new mortgage deal that will see their debts written off, spokesman Graham Usher said it would be well into the new year before they would finally be able to buy new homes and get on with their lives. But Mr Usher said that they were all relieved that their three-year nightmare was almost at an end.
Mr Usher also thanked the residents for their patience and determination over the years, and said the reception at the presidential palace was a bittersweet occasion in which it was great to have all of the families together again. But it would likely be the last time many of them would see each other.
He joked: "It makes a nice change from where we've been living." Mr Higgins said that homeowners -- like those in Priory Hall -- were at the mercy of uncontrolled property speculation with "no regulation" during the boom.
"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," Mr Higgins said.