Friday 23 March 2018

Sinn Féin TD stands by claims attic extension row was linked to criticisms

Sinn Fein TD John Brady and his wife, Gayle Ui Bhradaigh pictured leaving the Four Courts after the opening day of a High Court action
Sinn Fein TD John Brady and his wife, Gayle Ui Bhradaigh pictured leaving the Four Courts after the opening day of a High Court action

Tim Healy

Sinn Fein TD John Brady stands by his claim that a row over an attic extension in his council home was connected to his criticisms of the local authority.

Mr Brady, who has been a councillor in Bray, Co Wicklow since 2004, and was elected TD this year, is challenging, along with his wife Gayle, an eviction notice served on them over the 2004 attic conversion which was an alleged fire hazard.

Wicklow Co Council opposes their High Court action and says the situation is the result of the couple's own actions. The fact the conversion is now substantially in compliance proves the work was required, the council says.

Mr Brady told the court there had been a lot of tension between him and officials in the immediate run up to what he said were "so-called random inspections" of council houses where extensions had been carried out.

He had been highly critical of the council over the deaths of two council fireman in 2007 and during a subsequent health and safety prosecution against it. He had also supported two women who staged a sit-in at Bray Town Hall over homelessness.

As a result of the sit-in incident, the council deducted payments from his salary as a councillor, removed his security clearance from the Bray council building and told him he was only entitled to go into public areas, he said.

He had also been highly critical of the failure of the council to upgrade all the houses in one of its estates Oldcourt in Bray, where eight members of one family had died in a fire.

An independent report in 2007 for the council on the Oldcourt houses had not been acted on, and is still not fully acted on, and council tenants were still living in unsafe houses, he said.

Luan O'Braonain SC, for the council, put it to him he appeared to be saying there was a different standard about fire regulations for him and for the council.  "When you do work, it is not to be assessed as compliant, but if the council does work, it is", counsel said.

Mr Brady said there was a "clear difference" between the issue over his home and the Oldcourt houses because a problem had been identified in Oldcourt in 2007 where there were eight deaths and an independent report had still not been fully acted on.

Mr Brady said he had never heard of random inspections of council houses until his own one despite having been a councillor since 2004.  It had never appeared on a council agenda but when his home was done, it did start appearing but disappeared from the agenda soon afterwards.

Asked about the evidence of a council official who said random inspections had been going on since 2004/05, he said it was not until his inspection they first appeared on the council agendas.

Earlier, his wife Gayle told the court she "would have done an Irish dance"  to bring the dispute to an end.

Mrs Brady said she made great efforts to comply with requirements to keep the roof over the heads of her five children.

One of the problems they faced when the council demanded they apply for retention of the work was that they must also have got a certificate from a professional with €6.5m public indemnity insurance.

They could not get a professional with that level of insurance, she said.  Her lawyers claim this level of insurance is usually reserved for professionals involved in major projects, not domestic extensions.

Asked by Mr O'Braonan why she did not tell the council about this difficulty, or suggest maybe getting a professional with just €1m indemnity insurance, she said they were "playing the game at the time to be compliant.

"We did not want this fight, we did not want to be here.

"I would have done an Irish dance for them if they wanted me to".

The case was adjourned for legal submissions.

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