Sunday 18 February 2018

Developer Tom McFeely seeks legal costs over Priory Hall

Priory Hall developer, Tom McFeely pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court appearance last week
Priory Hall developer, Tom McFeely pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court appearance last week

Tim Healy

BANKRUPT developer Thomas McFeely is seeking the legal costs of part of a High Court battle over the evacuated Priory Hall apartment complex in Dublin.

High Court president, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said  today he will give a decision later on Mr McFeely's application after he has considered written submissions on the matter.

Mr McFeely, who was not in court, sought the costs of two days in the High Court in November 2011 which resulted in Mr Justice Kearns jailing him for three months and fining him €1m for breaching an undertaking he gave to the court the previous month in relation to the fire safety works at the apartment complex in Donaghmede.

He appealed that decision and last July the Supreme Court ruled he could not have been held to be in breach of his undertaking because he had been ordered off the site by the court.

As well as upholding his appeal, the Supreme Court ordered the issue of costs for the two days of the case was before the High Court should go back to the High Court.

Frank Crean BL, for Mr McFeely, said he was seeking an order for costs, in light of the Supreme Court decision, for those two days against Dublin City Council which had brought the original proceedings over Priory Hall against his client.

Conleth Bradley SC, for the council, opposed the application and said his client was in turn seeking costs against Mr McFeely.

Mr Bradley said it as a somewhat complicated and confused matter.

Although the Supreme Court found in favour of Mr McFeely in relation to the undertaking (to carry out remedial works), there was a finding of fact by the High Court that he had not done these works and Mr McFeely himself had accepted he had not complied with that undertaking, counsel said.

This was a case where there were exceptional circumstances in which costs did not necessarily follow once a party gets a decision in their favour, he said.

Mr Justice Kearns, who said he could not go behind the decision of the Supreme Court, said he had a clear recollection of Mr McFeely sitting in the witness box "putting up his hand and accepting full responsibility".

The judge also expressed unhappiness about the fact that Mr McFeely's lawyers did not ask his court for a note of the order it had made jailing and fining him before his lawyers went straight to the Supreme Court to lodge an appeal.

He said "basic professional courtesy" demanded that this should have been done.   It was something he "deprecated in the strongest possible

terms" and it had put the Supreme Court in a very difficult position, he said.

Mr Crean, for Mr McFeely, said no discourtesy was intended to the High Court but the situation was urgent on the day the appeal was lodged because his client was in custody.

Mr Justice Kearns said he wanted time to consider 53 pages of written submissions from the council on the costs issue and reserved judgment.

Priory Hall was evacuated in October 2011 leaving 256 residents in temporary accommodation.

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