Sunday 17 December 2017

McFeely wins reprieve from prison term and fine of €1m

Louise Hogan and Aoife Finneran

DEVELOPER Thomas McFeely walked free last night after winning a reprieve of a three-month jail sentence and €1m fine over the controversial Priory Hall apartment complex in Dublin.

The former IRA H-Block hunger striker's legal team secured a stay in the Supreme Court, just hours after he had been jailed for contempt of court over failures to follow a schedule of urgent fire-safety works at the 187 apartments in Donaghmede.

Mr McFeely refused to comment last night as he left the Four Courts with his legal team.

Residents are calling for a meeting with Environment Minister Phil Hogan as they still do not know what is going to happen with their homes or if work is going to resume.

Speaking outside the court, Graham Usher, a spokesman for the residents, said they were "very disappointed" with the decision to put a stay on the jail term. However, he thanked Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns for "truly hearing" their voices.

"Tom McFeely recklessly endangered our lives and the lives of our children just to line his own pockets," Mr Usher said.

"Our futures are still uncertain and we face the prospect of being homeless for Christmas. We are still paying mortgages on unsafe homes," he said.

Earlier, in the High Court, Justice Kearns said Mr McFeely was in contempt and not entitled to a "free exit pass" just because the court had granted Dublin City Council's application to remove him, his Coalport Building Company and 20 workers from the site over failure to meet the agreed work schedule.

Legal representatives for Mr McFeely said he had not been given the opportunity to complete the works as he and his workers had been ordered off the site.

However, the judge said he was satisfied there was a "severe breach" of the orders and undertakings that were aimed at completing works by November 28.

He fined Mr McFeely €1m, to be paid by March 1, 2012, and jailed him for three months in Mountjoy Prison due to the "unprecedented" level of disrespect shown. The court was packed with many of the 240 Priory Hall residents who have been evacuated since mid-October and are being housed at a cost of €240,000 a week to the council.

John O'Donnell, said the residents did not know what was going to happen to them and the council was proceeding with an appeal against orders requiring it to pay their costs.

The judge said the distress and disruption being experienced by the residents had "no parallel in this country in recent times".

A statement of affairs from Mr McFeely -- who had told the court he could not pay for another contractor to do the works at Priory Hall -- showed he had "substantial assets and even more substantial liabilities" but Justice Kearns said he was satisfied Mr McFeely had access to funds.

Irish Independent

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