Friday 15 December 2017

Kenny puts top civil servant on Priory Hall case

NEW FOUND URGENCY: Martin Fraser has met with banks and residents to find a solution to the situation
NEW FOUND URGENCY: Martin Fraser has met with banks and residents to find a solution to the situation

MAEVE SHEEHAN

THE Taoiseach has delegated the country's most senior civil servant to head the government-backed talks to find a solution for former residents of Priory Hall stuck with mortgages on their worthless apartments.

Martin Fraser, the secretary general to the government, has met with the banks and residents as part of the Government's resolution process.

Mr Kenny delegated Mr Fraser to the task after he was criticised for not responding to an open letter from Stephanie Meehan, whose partner took his own life because of the pressures of Priory Hall.

The Taoiseach eventually telephoned Ms Meehan, following further public outrage at how she was treated by her bank after her partner's death.

He pledged to solve the Priory Hall problem while Phil Hogan, the Environment Minister, announced a 21-day resolution process that began on September 19.

While Mr Hogan's officials are running the talks, the involvement of Mr Fraser – who is also the Taoiseach's secretary general – indicates a new found urgency on the part of the Government.

Priory Hall residents, along with banks, civil servants and local authority officials, have also attended the talks.

The banks include AIB and Bank of Ireland, but about one-third of residents have mortgages with non-Irish banks including two sub-prime lenders.

A source said there have been numerous meetings since the talks process began, which is still in the early stages.

About 180 families were evacuated from their homes in Priory Hall two years ago when the complex was declared a fire hazard.

They have lived in limbo ever since while the rogue developer who built it, Tom McFeely, successfully appealed a jail sentence for contempt of court for failing to carry out repairs to the complex.

Although their properties are worthless, they are stuck with repaying mortgage and interest on their homes while living in temporary accommodation.

The residents have been campaigning for almost two years for some government intervention to help them with their mortgage difficulties. A previous resolution process failed.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan refused to meet the residents citing "legal reasons".

Sunday Independent

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