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Hundreds live in 'unsafe' flats built by ex-IRA hunger striker

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Residents Donna Darby and her son Callum, age 4 at  the apartments at Priory Hall, Donaghmede, Dublin

Residents Donna Darby and her son Callum, age 4 at the apartments at Priory Hall, Donaghmede, Dublin

A woman makes a call from a balcony

A woman makes a call from a balcony

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Residents Donna Darby and her son Callum, age 4 at the apartments at Priory Hall, Donaghmede, Dublin

HUNDREDS of residents are continuing to live in apartments built by a former IRA hunger striker despite serious concerns over fire safety.

Families have spoken of their worry after fire chiefs declared "potentially dangerous" two complexes built in Dublin by the Coalport Building Company Ltd.

And more than 20 tenants at a new apartment complex in Dundalk, Co Louth, also built by Coalport, were last month told to vacate the premises after a closure order was served.

Louth chief fire officer Eamonn Woulfe described it as a "serious matter" as tenants were allowed move into the Dundalk apartments, advertised for rent from €600 per month, before a fire alarm system was in place.

All three complexes -- the 187-apartment Priory Hall complex, Donaghmede, Dublin; the 198-apartment Aras na Cluaine complex, Clondalkin, Dublin; and Ard Dealgan, Quay Street, Dundalk, Co Louth -- have a number of different problems which need to be rectified to bring them into compliance with their fire safety certificates.

Labour Party TD Tommy Broughan, who raised the matter in the Dail, said he has made frequent complaints about problems at Priory Hall since the apartments were opened just over two years ago.

Dublin City Council, the fire safety authority, has hit Coalport Building Company -- whose director is the former H-block hunger striker turned property developer Tom McFeely -- with a fire safety notice for Priory Hall and Aras na Cluaine.

However, hundreds of residents continue to live in the complexes despite fears being raised by fire chiefs. In Clondalkin, residents have appealed the fire notice to stop using the buildings. Under regulations, the company was given four months from the date the enforcement notice was served within which to bring the development into compliance with the original fire safety certificate.

The developer has until January to comply in Priory Hall, and until March to rectify the issues with the Clondalkin complex. The council said they were in daily communication with Coalport. A council spokesman said they had moved their tenants from Priory Hall as it was considered a "potentially dangerous building".

"I can't comment on behalf of the city council as a fire authority for the people in the blocks other than we served the notice on the developer to comply with the remediation works," he said.

"The fire authority is not going to tell people to move out; if the works aren't completed to make it safe, we will consider legal action."

He said it would then be up to the courts to decide whether to issue a closure order. Coalport confirmed that no one has been moved out of the Clondalkin premises, while around 18 people have left Priory Hall. Many of the tenants in Dundalk have moved out; others were issued with legal letters but will remain there until after Christmas.

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All the apartments in the five-storey Ard Dealgan complex in Dundalk are still owned by the company. A spokesman for Coalport said the firm was not prepared to simply throw people out on the street.

Director

He added that the company was planning to rectify the problems at the three complexes as soon as possible and was working with independent fire consultants. In Dundalk, Mr Woulfe said Coalport had "done quite a lot of work" to rectify the problems in Ard Dealgan.

The Coalport spokesman said there had been a breakdown in communication between the on-site manager and the company management with regards to moving people in before the Dundalk premises was fire safety compliant.

Mr McFeely (60), who lives in the former German embassy on the capital's exclusive Ailesbury Road, was hit with a €9m tax bill following a probe by the Criminal Assets Bureau. More recently, the Bentley-driving businessman was involved in a legal row which has overshadowed plans for a regeneration of the Tallaght Square shopping centre development.

Mr McFeely is noted as both secretary and director of Coalport; while a second director, Noel McFeely, with an address in Terenure, was also listed.

With just weeks to go until Christmas, Dublin City Council moved its tenants occupying 23 units at Priory Hall to alternative accommodation. Around 137 apartments are occupied by private homeowners and renters, while around 20 are believed to be vacant.

Mr McFeely was among a group of IRA terrorist prisoners who went on hunger strike for 53 days in the H-block in 1980.

In 1981, a further 10 prisoners led by Bobby Sands eventually starved themselves to death.


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