Monday 22 January 2018

Now residents of a third complex face fire issues

Echoes of Priory Hall as fire risks are highlighted

Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Mark Condren
Longboat Quay Apartments near dublin's Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Mark Condren
Developer Bernard McNamara

Paul Melia and Laura Larkin

Residents living in yet another apartment complex built during the Celtic Tiger boom are to meet with lawyers and the local council tomorrow amid concerns that their homes also pose a fire-safety risk.

Fears about a development in Ratoath, Co Meath, come as almost 900 people in Dublin's Longboat Quay complex face being evacuated unless some €4m is found to make structural repairs.

Residents in the 300 apartments, built by developer Bernard McNamara, face paying up to €18,000 each to cover necessary structural works.

However, it is unclear whether Mr McNamara will contribute in any way as his Gendsong company has been placed into receivership.

Former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin bought two apartments in Longboat Quay in 2006 while they still lived at Áras an Uachtaráin for a reported combined sum of about €1.2m.

The apartment block is the latest in a series of large-scale housing projects erected during the construction boom which have since been found to have major safety issues.

It has echoes of Priory Hall in north Dublin, which was developed by former IRA member Thomas McFeely and is being repaired at a cost of €27m.

Meath County Council said that a development at Riverwalk Court in Ratoath also had safety issues and a meeting is arranged for tomorrow. The 26-unit development has a number of structural problems.

"There is a meeting between the council, the residents and the respective legal advisers this Friday to discuss the current situation and the possible next steps in resolving the various fire safety issues which have been identified in the property," the council said in a statement.

The extent of the works required is not known.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the management committee at the Longboat Quay development is examining if any professionals involved in signing-off on construction works could be liable for repairs.

Questions were immediately raised yesterday about other developments and the Taoiseach was called to intervene and get the developer to stump up for the work. But Mr Kenny said it was years since he had spoken to Mr McNamara, who declared bankruptcy in London in 2012 with debts of over €1bn.

The Government last week established a review group to examine the fire risks at housing complexes and its work will now be given fresh impetus.


The Department of the Environment said this was announced in light of a number of incidents in recent years, including Priory Hall. Fire safety issues at Longboat Quay were first raised in June last year. At least three units have been sold since then, the most recent last June for €400,000.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) which owns 36 units and controls common areas in the complex, said it informed residents of the problems. It spent €1m installing alarms and paying fire marshals to patrol. But another €3.75m is needed for structural works.

The DDDA said that the ultimate cost of the works would require "significant financial support" from the management company and property owners.

Richard Eardley, director of the Longboat Quay Management Company, said that negotiations were ongoing with the DDDA and the receiver in a bid to have them contribute to the costs.

It is expected that the bodies will pay something towards the huge repair bill but Mr Eardley said that he was "not confident" that contributions from either party would cover all costs.

He added that the fire notice was simply to compel works to start. It was "the first in a series of steps which could ultimately lead to closure but that's very much a last resort", he said, adding: "People don't have to worry about not having homes or anything like that."

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said legislation was required to protect homeowners, calling on Mr Kenny to "personally intervene" with Mr McNamara and ensure "he and those responsible" paid for repairs.

Mr Kenny said: "Unfortunately, because of the over-enthusiasm that was being followed with regard to the whole building boom during the so-called Celtic Tiger years, nobody policed the quality of the building that went into these houses and estates".

Dublin Fire Brigade is expected to issue a fire-safety notice today.

While residents will not be asked to evacuate their homes, that cannot be ruled out if the works are not completed in a specified period.

Irish Independent

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