Priory death-trap builder McFeely plays the victim
But 300 now-homeless people think otherwise
Published 23/10/2011 | 05:00
SPARE a thought for Tom McFeely. He's not a happy man. I found that out on Friday morning when I tried to ask him what he's going to do to fix the death-trap apartments he threw together at Priory Hall.
"Give me your name and I'll meet you some place," the former IRA man muttered as he headed towards a taxi outside the Four Courts.
A likely story. I stepped in the way of the car door just as Tom went to close it.
"Don't block the door! Close the door! Close the door!" he demanded, while doing his damnedest to move me on by banging the door against my back.
Not that I'm taking it personally. Tom McFeely was already looking pretty cheesed off before we met, having just been told in no uncertain terms by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns that he has exactly five weeks to sort out the almighty mess at Priory Hall.
As the development's displaced residents gave their reaction to the media outside the court building, the former hunger striker was inside, protesting in colourful terms to his legal team about the demands being made of him.
An awkward attempt by a fresh-faced barrister to hand-deliver a letter to McFeely in the middle of his self-pitying rant did nothing to improve his mood, judging by the manner in which he flung the envelope on the floor as soon as it was placed into his chubby hand.
It probably wasn't the best moment to call Tom on his mobile either. But somebody working for him did just that.
"Have you got the statement of affairs yet?" he inquired loudly and impatiently. The caller must have answered in the affirmative, given Tom's irritated retort.
"They don't miss a trick, do they?" he barked, rocking on his heels, while his red-faced barrister and solicitor chatted to each other and looked the other way.
Because when you think about it, you really wouldn't want to miss a trick when it comes to dealing with Tom McFeely, the hardline republican who first made a name for himself through dispensing terror and later made a fortune from building ramshackle apartments.
Miss a trick with Tom and you could find yourself living in a hotel room while you continue to pay down the €250,000 mortgage you took out at the height of the boom to buy one of McFeely's fire-trap apartments.
Not that the convicted terrorist and developer showed any sign last Friday morning that he understood the misery he has brought to the lives of the 300 people who had called Priory Hall home up until their evacuation last week.
Leaning against the wall at the back of the courtroom, McFeely, in between checking the time on his Rolex, fixed his stare at a point on the wall above Mr Justice Kearns head and showed no sign of being moved by the proceedings.
Tom is well used to the court system, from his time in the Provisional IRA and from his "career" as a developer.
"You are an extremely dangerous, intelligent and vicious young man," a judge in Belfast told him in 1976.
McFeely went on hunger strike for 53 days in the Maze Prison in 1980 while serving a 26-year sentence for the attempted murder of a Northern Ireland policeman in a gun battle, possession of illegal weapons and a post office robbery.
He didn't look hungry last Friday, with his belly spilling over the belt of his pinstripe pants. Hardly surprising, given how he has had his snout in the developers' trough since coming across the Border in 1989 with just £240 in his pocket to become a builder.
And while he has tried to distance himself from other developers, describing them in one newspaper interview as "anaemic", that didn't stop him from collecting the baubles that one associates with them, such as the house on Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4, a Bentley limousine and a €6m villa in Portugal.
Now the empire he built would appear, like Priory Hall, to be falling apart and Tom McFeely believes he is being hard done by.
He probably thinks he has suffered enough already, given the number of judgements registered by the ACC Bank against the properties he and business partner Larry O'Mahony amassed between them during the boom. Not even Tom's palatial home on Ailesbury Road or Larry's pile on Shrewsbury Road have been spared by the Dutch-owned bank, according to the filings held at the Registry of Deeds.
Unlike the residents of Priory Hall, however, both men continue to enjoy the use of their D4 homes whenever they are in the capital, according to residents on both roads.
And while Tom claimed last week that he spent most of his time on a plane these days, Larry O'Mahony is (according to the address on the record of his bankruptcy in the UK) now ensconced in a luxurious apartment in Central Place in the picturesque and highly affluent Manchester suburb of Wilmslow.
Looking at the description of Mr O'Mahony's present home on the Central Place website, it puts the plight of the unfortunate residents of Priory Hall into even harsher perspective.
"Central Place is for people who are looking for exclusivity," it says.
Meanwhile and as a result of the reckless actions of Messrs McFeely and O'Mahony, 300 ordinary people whom they mercilessly ripped off in Priory Hall are simply looking for a home.