McFeely gets all touchy when quizzed on his new home in a plush suburb
'Confront me up there and I won't guarantee you'll make it back to Dublin'
"I'LL tell you what you do, my friend. You come up to my house where I'm living, on the Glen Road in Claudy. I will give you an interview. You're a brave man, you confront people. You confront me up there at my house and I'll give you your interview but I won't guarantee you'll make it back to Dublin."
That's what rogue developer Tom McFeely had to say to me when I caught up with him at the very comfortable home he now rents in the south Dublin suburb of Blackrock last Friday morning.
For the more respectable residents of the Mount Albany estate, it would seem to be a case of 'there goes the neighbourhood', thanks to the bankrupt Priory Hall builder's decision to move in.
Not that Tom has been throwing his weight around with any of the neighbours since taking up residence in the four-bedroom detached house that costs €2,000 per month to rent.
Indeed, before I went in search of the man known at the height of his infamy as 'Bomber McFeely', I had been informed of how he comes and goes wearing a hoodie pulled up over his head so as not to attract attention.
There was no hoodie last Friday morning, however. Nor was there any attempt by Tom to hide his contempt for me or my line of questioning.
Having reminded him of his recent remark that the people of Priory Hall had been paying him with "government cheques" when he was running the place they used to call their home, I asked the former IRA man if he was availing of rent supplement to pay for his new digs.
"F**king scumbag!" was Tom's instinctive response as he strode purposefully towards the door of the 2011-registered Hyundai car parked outside his front gate in the company of his daughter.
Charmed I wasn't and so I persisted with my questioning, keenly aware that as a declared bankrupt, Tom's capacity to pay the €2,000 monthly rent on his new south Dublin home would be, to put it mildly, somewhat limited.
There is, of course, always the possibility that the Priory Hall developer's wife, Nina Kessler, is footing the hefty bill off the back of her earnings as the operator of the 17-room Abrae Court Guest House in Rathgar. Unfortunately, Tom remained tight-lipped on that front. But whoever's paying the McFeelys' rent this Christmas, when it comes to taking care of the families forced to leave their homes in Priory Hall on the grounds of fire safety 14 months ago, it's a very different story.
Spokesman for the Priory Hall residents Graham Usher reacted angrily to the news of Tom McFeely's new living arrangements.
He told the Sunday Independent: "He seems to be making a bit of a mockery of the justice system here. He hasn't paid any price for the things he has done and still he's able to live in a house like that.
"It's disgusting that he can live in that kind of accommodation while we've been left living from month to month, wondering if we'll ever get back into our own homes."
Commenting on the worsening plight of the people of Priory Hall, he added: "The families are facing into another Christmas where they don't know where they're going to be staying. There's absolutely no chance of going back to Priory Hall – not that they want to do that.
"People are just looking to move on with their lives, but it's hard to do that with this millstone hanging around our necks. While the banks and the Government stand back and do nothing, we just find ourselves living from month to month. It's been 14 months since we were put out of our homes.
"It's getting close to the point where the residents will just hand the keys back to the banks and say, 'Look, we've already lost our homes. There's not a lot else you can take from us. What are you going to do?'"
Asked if there appeared to be any sense of urgency on the part of the banks or the Government to assist the Priory Hall families, Mr Usher said: "There's no sense of urgency among any of the other parties involved in this. We're falling further into debt.
"We can't do what Tom McFeely tried to do by heading off to the UK to declare bankruptcy. The fact is that the residents of Priory Hall have seen something like an extra €15,000 added on to their mortgages because while we're out of our homes there, the interest on the debt is climbing.
"We've never met [Environment Minister] Phil Hogan, despite our constant requests.
"He claims that he can't intervene in individual cases and that he has to respect the independence of Dublin City Council. Considering some of the letters he has sent on behalf of his own constituents, that seems a bit hypocritical.
"Now Dublin City Council is taking us to court to try to remove us from our temporary accommodation. Basically, we're being hung out to dry."
Asked for his views on the property tax, Mr Usher said the Priory Hall homeowners had been in contact with local TDs.
"We've gotten on to our local TDs to clarify this. The property tax is 0.18 per cent of the value of the property, but our properties are worthless. If we are liable for it, we will approach the Revenue Commissioners to tell them we won't be paying it."